World War II, 1939–1945
Pact with Hitler
After a failed attempt to sign an anti-German military alliance with
France and Britain and talks with Germany regarding a potential
political deal, on 23 August 1939, the Soviet Union entered into a
non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany, negotiated by Soviet foreign
minister Vyacheslav Molotov and German foreign minister Joachim von
Ribbentrop. Officially a non-aggression treaty only, an appended
secret protocol, also reached on 23 August 1939, divided the whole
of eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence.
The eastern part of Poland, Latvia,
Estonia, Finland and part of Romania were recognized as parts of the
Soviet sphere of influence, with Lithuania added in a second secret
protocol in September 1939. Stalin and Ribbentrop traded toasts on
the night of the signing discussing past hostilities between the
countries. German-Soviet trade agreements completely undermined the
British blockade of Germany. Cooperation between the Soviet and
Nazis was considerable to the point that in 1939 Trotsky called
Stalin as the "Hitler' quartermaster".
On 1 September 1939, the German invasion of its agreed upon portion
of Poland started World War II. On 17 September the Red Army invaded
eastern Poland and occupied the Polish territory assigned to it by
the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, followed by co-ordination with German
forces in Poland. Eleven days later, the secret protocol of the
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was modified, allotting Germany a larger
part of Poland, while ceding most of Lithuania to the Soviet Union.
After Stalin declared that he was going to "solve the Baltic
problem", by June 1940, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were merged
into the Soviet Union, after repressions and actions therein brought
about the deaths of over 160,000 citizens of these states. After
facing stiff resistance in an invasion of Finland, an interim peace
was entered, granting the Soviet Union the eastern region of Karelia
(10% of Finnish territory).
After this campaign, Stalin took
actions to bolster the Soviet military, modify training and improve
propaganda efforts in the Soviet military. In June 1940, Stalin
directed the Soviet annexation of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina,
proclaiming this formerly Romanian territory part of the Moldavian
Soviet Socialist Republic. But in annexing northern Bukovina, Stalin
had gone beyond the agreed limits of the secret protocol.
After the Tripartite Pact was signed by Axis Powers Germany, Japan
and Italy, in October 1940, Stalin traded letters with Ribbentrop,
with Stalin writing about entering an agreement regarding a
"permanent basis" for their "mutual interests." After a conference
in Berlin between Hitler, Molotov and Ribbentrop, Germany presented
Molotov with a proposed written agreement for Axis entry. On 25
November, Stalin responded with a proposed written agreement for
Axis entry which was never answered by Germany. Shortly thereafter,
Hitler issued a secret directive on the eventual attempts to invade
the Soviet Union. In an effort to demonstrate peaceful intentions
toward Germany, on 13 April 1941, Stalin oversaw the signing of a
neutrality pact with Axis power Japan.
On 6 May, Stalin replaced Molotov
as Premier of the Soviet Union. Although Stalin had been the de
facto head of government for a decade and a half, he had concluded
relations with Nazi Germany had deteriorated to such an extent that
he needed to deal with the problem as de jure head of government as
The Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact
German Foreign Minister Joachim Von Ribbentrop (left), Soviet leader
Joseph Stalin, and his
Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov (right) sign the pact in the
Kremlin on August 23, 1939.
German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact
Molotov signs the German–Soviet non-aggression pact.
Behind him are Ribbentrop and Stalin.
Germany-Union of Soviet
Socialist Republics 
also called Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, German-Soviet Treaty of
Nonaggression, Hitler-Stalin Pact, Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
(August 23, 1939), nonaggression pact between Germany and the Soviet
Union that was concluded only a few days before the beginning of
World War II and which divided eastern Europe into German and Soviet
spheres of influence.
Molotov signs the German–Soviet non-aggression pact, 1939
Behind him are Ribbentrop and Stalin.
The Soviet Union had been unable to
reach a collective-security agreement with Britain and France
against Nazi Germany, most notably at the time of the Munich
Conference in September 1938. By early 1939 the Soviets faced the
prospect of resisting German military expansion in eastern Europe
virtually alone, and so they began searching about for a change of
policy. On May 3, 1939, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin fired Foreign
Minister Maksim Litvinov, who was Jewish and an advocate of
collective security, and replaced him with Vyacheslav Mikhaylovich
Molotov, who soon began negotiations with the Nazi foreign minister,
Joachim von Ribbentrop. The Soviets also kept negotiating with
Britain and France, but in the end Stalin chose to reach an
agreement with Germany. By doing so he hoped to keep the Soviet
Union at peace with Germany and to gain time to build up the Soviet
military establishment, which had been badly weakened by the purge
of the Red Army officer corps in 1937. The Western democracies’
hesitance in opposing Adolf Hitler, along with Stalin’s own
inexplicable personal preference for the Nazis, also played a part
in Stalin’s final choice. For his part, Hitler wanted a
nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union so that his armies could
invade Poland virtually unopposed by a major power, after which
Germany could deal with the forces of France and Britain in the west
without having to simultaneously fight the Soviet Union on a second
front in the east. The end result of the German-Soviet negotiations
was the Nonaggression Pact, which was dated August 23 and was signed
by Ribbentrop and Molotov in the presence of Stalin, in Moscow.
The terms of the German-Soviet
Nonaggression Pact were briefly as follows: the two countries agreed
not to attack each other, either independently or in conjunction
with other powers; not to support any third power that might attack
the other party to the pact; to remain in consultation with each
other upon questions touching their common interests; not to join
any group of powers directly or indirectly threatening one of the
two parties; to solve all differences between the two by negotiation
or arbitration. The pact was to last for 10 years, with automatic
extension for another 5 years unless either party gave notice to
terminate it 1 year before its expiration.
To this public pact of
nonaggression was appended a secret protocol, also reached on August
23, 1939, which divided the whole of eastern Europe into German and
Soviet spheres of influence. Poland east of the line formed by the
Narew, Vistula, and San rivers would fall under the Soviet sphere of
influence. The protocol also assigned Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia,
and Finland to the Soviet sphere of influence and, further, broached
the subject of the separation of Bessarabia from Romania. A secret
supplementary protocol (signed September 28, 1939) clarified the
Lithuanian borders. The Polish-German border was also determined,
and Bessarabia was assigned to the Soviet sphere of influence. In a
third secret protocol (signed January 10, 1941, by Count Friedrich
Werner von Schulenberg and Molotov), Germany renounced its claims to
portions of Lithuania in return for Soviet payment of a sum agreed
upon by the two countries.
The public German-Soviet
Nonaggression Pact caused consternation in the capitals of Britain
and France. After Germany invaded Poland from the west on September
1, 1939, Soviet troops invaded Poland from the east on September 17,
meeting the advancing Germans near Brest-Litovsk two days later. The
partition of Poland was effected on September 29, at which time the
dividing line between German and Soviet territory was changed in
Germany’s favour, being moved eastward to the Bug River (i.e., the
current Polish-Soviet frontier). The Soviets soon afterward sought
to consolidate their sphere of influence as a defensive barrier to
renewed German aggression in the east. Accordingly, the Soviet Union
attacked Finland on November 30 and forced it in March 1940 to yield
the Isthmus of Karelia and make other concessions. The Baltic
republics of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia were annexed by the
Soviet Union and were organized as Soviet republics in August 1940.
The Nonaggression Pact became a dead letter on June 22, 1941, when
Nazi Germany, after having invaded much of western and central
Europe, attacked the Soviet Union without warning in Operation
The Soviet Union’s borders with
Poland and Romania that were established after World War II roughly
follow those established by the Nonaggression Pact in 1939–41. Until
1989 the Soviet Union denied the existence of the secret protocols
because they were considered evidence of its involuntary annexation
of the Baltic states. Soviet leaders were initially unwilling to
restore prewar boundaries, but the transformations occurring within
the Soviet Union in the early 1990s made it virtually impossible for
Soviet leaders to combat declarations of independence from the
Baltic states in 1991.
Ribbentrop and Stalin at the signing of the Pact
German and Soviet soldiers meeting
Common parade of Wehrmacht and Red Army in Brest at the
end of the Invasion of Poland.
At the center Major General Heinz Guderian and Brigadier Semyon
Soviet and German soldiers in Lublin
German and Soviet soldiers at the so-called Border of Peace
established by the pact
welcoming Molotov in Berlin, November 1940
Last page of the Additional Secret Protocol of the
"Second Ribbentrop–Molotov Pact" of 28 September 1939.
Map of Poland signed by Stalin and Ribbentrop adjusting
the German–Soviet border in the aftermath of German and
Soviet invasion of Poland.
Foreign Minister Molotov and Hitler in Berlin, 1940
German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact
The Government of the German Reich
and The Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Desirous of strengthening the cause
of peace between Germany and the U.S.S.R., and proceeding from the
fundamental provisions of the Neutrality Agreement concluded in
April, 1926 between Germany and the U.S.S.R., have reached the
Article I. Both High Contracting
Parties obligate themselves to desist from any act of violence, any
aggressive action, and any attack on each other, either individually
or jointly with other Powers.
Article II. Should one of the High
Contracting Parties become the object of belligerent action by a
third Power, the other High Contracting Party shall in no manner
lend its support to this third Power.
Article III. The Governments of the
two High Contracting Parties shall in the future maintain continual
contact with one another for the purpose of consultation in order to
exchange information on problems affecting their common interests.
Article IV. Should disputes or
conflicts arise between the High Contracting Parties shall
participate in any grouping of Powers whatsoever that is directly or
indirectly aimed at the other party.
Article V. Should disputes or
conflicts arise between the High Contracting Parties over problems
of one kind or another, both parties shall settle these disputes or
conflicts exclusively through friendly exchange of opinion or, if
necessary, through the establishment of arbitration commissions.
Article VI. The present Treaty is
concluded for a period of ten years, with the proviso that, in so
far as one of the High Contracting Parties does not advance it one
year prior to the expiration of this period, the validity of this
Treaty shall automatically be extended for another five years.
Article VII. The present treaty
shall be ratified within the shortest possible time. The
ratifications shall be exchanged in Berlin. The Agreement shall
enter into force as soon as it is signed.
[The next section was not published
at the time the above was announced.]
Secret Additional Protocol.
Article I. In the event of a
territorial and political rearrangement in the areas belonging to
the Baltic States (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), the
northern boundary of Lithuania shall represent the boundary of the
spheres of influence of Germany and U.S.S.R. In this connection the
interest of Lithuania in the Vilna area is recognized by each party.
Article II. In the event of a
territorial and political rearrangement of the areas belonging to
the Polish state, the spheres of influence of Germany and the
U.S.S.R. shall be bounded approximately by the line of the rivers
Narev, Vistula and San.
The question of whether the
interests of both parties make desirable the maintenance of an
independent Polish States and how such a state should be bounded can
only be definitely determined in the course of further political
In any event both Governments will
resolve this question by means of a friendly agreement.
Article III. With regard to
Southeastern Europe attention is called by the Soviet side to its
interest in Bessarabia. The German side declares its complete
political disinteredness in these areas.
Article IV. This protocol shall be
treated by both parties as strictly secret.
Moscow, August 23, 1939.
For the Government of the German
Reich v. Ribbentrop
Plenipotentiary of the
Government of the U.S.S.R. V. Molotov
[From: Nazi-Soviet Relations
1939-1941. Documents from the Archives of the German Foreign Office
(Washington D.C., 1948) p. 78]
Secret Additional Protoco
Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact
The Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact
(日ソ中立条約, Nisso Chūritsu Jōyaku?), more extensively known as
Japanese-Soviet Nonaggression Pact (日ソ不可侵条約, Nisso Fukashin Jōyaku?)
as well as German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, was a pact between the
Empire of Japan and the Soviet Union signed in 1941, two years after
the brief Soviet-Japanese Border War (1939).
In September 1939, with the
outbreak of general war in Europe between Nazi Germany and Poland,
the United Kingdom, and France, the Soviet Union needed to mend its
diplomatic relations in the Far East in order to concentrate on the
growing threat to European Russia in the west. On the other hand,
Japan, bogged down in a seemingly interminable war with China and
with diplomatic relations with the United States rapidly
deteriorating, sought an accommodation with the Soviet Union that
would improve its international standing and secure the northern
frontier of Manchukuo against possible Soviet invasion.
The treaty was signed in Moscow on
April 13, 1941, by Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka and Ambassador
Yoshitsugu Tatekawa for Japan and Foreign Minister Vyacheslav
Mikhailovich Molotov for the Soviet Union.
On the same day, the same people
also signed a declaration regarding Mongolia and Manchuria. The
Soviet Union pledged to respect the territorial integrity and
inviolability of Manchukuo, while Japan did the same for the
Mongolian People's Republic.
Later, in 1941, Japan, as a
signatory of the Tripartite Pact, considered denouncing the
Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact, especially after Nazi Germany
invaded the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa), but made the
crucial decision to keep it and to expand southwards invading the
European colonies in Southeast Asia instead.
On April 5, 1945 the Soviet Union
denounced the pact, informing the Japanese government that "in
accordance with Article Three of the above mentioned pact, which
envisaged the right of denunciation one year before the lapse of the
five year period of operation of the pact, the Soviet Government
hereby makes known to the Government of Japan its wish to denounce
the pact of April 13, 1941." Formally, the pact itself remained in
effect until April 13, 1946, but the Russian Foreign Commissar's
tone indicated that Russia might go to war with Japan soon.
On August 8, 1945 the Soviet Union
declared war on Japan and invaded Manchuria, keeping their promise
to the Allies at the Yalta Conference to enter the war with Japan
two to three months after the end of World War II in Europe.
Stalin and Molotov on the signing of the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality
Pact with the Empire of Japan, 1941
PACT OF NEUTRALITY BETWEEN UNION OF
SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS AND JAPAN
The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and His Majesty the
Emperor of Japan, guided by a desire to strengthen peaceful and
friendly relations between the two countries, have decided to
conclude a pact on neutrality, for which purpose they have appointed
as their Representatives:
the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics -
Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov,
Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars and People's
Commissar of Foreign Affairs of the Union of Soviet Socialist
His Majesty the Emperor of Japan -
Yosuke Matsuoka, Minister of
Foreign Affairs, Jusanmin, Cavalier of the Order of the Sacred
Treasure of the First Class, and
Yoshitsugu Tatekawa, Ambassador
Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics, Lieutenant General, Jusanmin, Cavalier of the Order of
the Rising Sun of the First Class and the Order of the Golden Kite
of the Fourth Class,
who, after an exchange of their
credentials, which were found in due and proper form, have agreed on
Both Contracting Parties undertake to maintain peaceful and friendly
relations between them and mutually respect the territorial
integrity and inviolability of the other Contracting Party.
Should one of the Contracting Parties become the object of
hostilities on the part of one or several third powers, the other
Contracting Party will observe neutrality throughout the duration of
The present Pact comes into force from the day of its ratification
by both Contracting Parties and remains valid for five years. In
case neither of the Contracting Parties denounces the Pact one year
before the expiration of the term, it will be considered
automatically prolonged for the next five years.
The present Pact is subject to ratification as soon as possible. The
instruments of ratification shall be exchanged in Tokyo, also as
soon as possible.
In confirmation whereof the
above-named Representatives have signed the present Pact in two
copies, drawn up in the Russian and Japanese languages, and affixed
thereto their seals.
Done in Moscow on April 13, 1941,
which corresponds to the 13th day of the fourth month of the 16th
year of Showa.
Hitler breaks the pact
In the early morning of 22 June 1941, Adolf Hitler broke the pact by
implementing Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet
Union that began the war on the Eastern Front. Already in autumn
1940 Stalin received a warning from the Dutch Communist Party, via
the network of the Red Orchestra, that Hitler was preparing for a
winter war by allowing the construction of thousands of snow landing
gears for the Junkers Ju 52 transport planes. Although Stalin had
received warnings from spies and his generals, he felt that Germany
would not attack the Soviet Union until Germany had defeated
Britain. In the initial hours after the German attack commenced,
Stalin hesitated, wanting to ensure that the German attack was
sanctioned by Hitler, rather than the unauthorized action of a rogue
Accounts by Nikita Khrushchev and
Anastas Mikoyan claim that, after the invasion, Stalin retreated to
his dacha in despair for several days and did not participate in
leadership decisions. However, documentary evidence of orders given
by Stalin contradicts these accounts, leading some historians to
speculate that Khrushchev's account is inaccurate. By the end of
1941, the Soviet military had suffered 4.3 million casualties and
German forces had advanced 1,050 miles (1,690 kilometers).
With all the men at the Front, Moscow women dig anti-tank
trenches around Moscow in 1941.
Soviets stop the Germans
While the Germans pressed forward, Stalin was confident of an
eventual Allied victory over Germany. In September 1941, Stalin told
British diplomats that he wanted two agreements: (1) a mutual
assistance/aid pact and (2) a recognition that, after the war, the
Soviet Union would gain the territories in countries that it had
taken pursuant to its division of Eastern Europe with Hitler in the
Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. The British agreed to assistance but
refused to agree upon the territorial gains, which Stalin accepted
months later as the military situation deteriorated somewhat in
mid-1942. By December 1941, Hitler's troops had advanced to within
20 miles of the Kremlin in Moscow. On 5 December, the Soviets
launched a counteroffensive, pushing German troops back 40–50 miles
from Moscow, the Wehrmacht's first significant defeat of the war.
In 1942, Hitler shifted his primary
goal from an immediate victory in the East, to the more long-term
goal of securing the southern Soviet Union to conquer oil fields
vital to a long-term German war effort. In July 1942, Hitler praised
the efficiency of the Soviet military industry and Stalin:
Stalin, too, must command our
unconditional respect. In his own way he is one hell of a fellow!
(German: ein genialer Kerl) He knows his models, Genghiz Khan and
the others, very well, and the scope of his industrial planning is
exceeded only by our own Four Year Plan.
While Red Army generals saw
evidence that Hitler would shift efforts south, Stalin considered
this to be a flanking campaign in efforts to take Moscow. During the
war, Time magazine named Stalin Time Person of the Year twice and he
was also one of the nominees for Time Person of the Century title.
The Big Three: British Prime
Minister Winston Churchill, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and
Stalin at the Yalta Conference, February 1945.
Soviet push to Germany
The Soviets repulsed the important German strategic southern
campaign and, although there were 2.5 million Soviet casualties in
that effort, it permitted the Soviets to take the offensive for most
of the rest of the war on the Eastern Front.
Germany attempted an encirclement attack at Kursk, which was
successfully repulsed by the Soviets. Kursk marked the beginning of
a period where Stalin became more willing to listen to the advice of
his generals. By the end of 1943, the Soviets occupied half of the
territory taken by the Germans from 1941 to 1942. Soviet military
industrial output also had increased substantially from late 1941 to
early 1943 after Stalin had moved factories well to the East of the
front, safe from German invasion and air attack.
In November 1943, Stalin met with
Churchill and Roosevelt in Tehran. The parties later agreed that
Britain and America would launch a cross-channel invasion of France
in May 1944, along with a separate invasion of southern France.
Stalin insisted that, after the war, the Soviet Union should
incorporate the portions of Poland it occupied pursuant to the
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Germany, which Churchill opposed.
In 1944, the Soviet Union made
significant advances across Eastern Europe toward Germany, including
Operation Bagration, a massive offensive in Belorussia against the
German Army Group Centre.
By April 1945, Nazi Germany faced its last days with 1.9 million
German soldiers in the East fighting 6.4 million Red Army soldiers
while 1 million German soldiers in the West battled 4 million
Western Allied soldiers. While initial talk existed of a race
to Berlin by the Allies, after Stalin successfully lobbied for
Eastern Germany to fall within the Soviet "sphere of influence" at
Yalta, no plans were made by the Western Allies to seize the city by
a ground operation.
On 30 April, Hitler and Eva Braun
committed suicide, after which Soviet forces found their remains,
which had been burned at Hitler's directive. German forces
surrendered a few days later. Despite the Soviets' possession of
Hitler's remains, Stalin refused to believe that his old nemesis was
actually dead, a belief that remained with him for years after the
Fending off the German invasion and
pressing to victory in the East required a tremendous sacrifice by
the Soviet Union. Soviet military casualties totaled
approximately 35 million (official figures 28.2 million) with
approximately 14.7 million killed, missing or captured (official
figures 11.285 million). Although figures vary, the Soviet civilian
death toll probably reached 20 million. One in four Soviets was
killed or wounded. Some 1,710 towns and 70,000 villages were
destroyed. Thereafter, Stalin was at times referred to as one of the
most influential men in human history.
Nobel Peace Prize nominations
Stalin was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 and 1948.
Part of 5 March 1940 memo
from Lavrentiy Beria to Stalin proposing execution of Polish
Human rights abuses
After taking around 300,000 Polish prisoners in 1939 and early 1940,
25,700 Polish POWs were executed on 5 March 1940, pursuant to a note
to Stalin from Lavrenty Beria, in what became known as the Katyn
massacre. While Stalin personally told a Polish general they'd "lost
track" of the officers in Manchuria, Polish railroad workers found
the mass grave after the 1941 Nazi invasion. The massacre became a
source of political controversy, with the Soviets eventually
claiming that Germany committed the executions when the Soviet Union
retook Poland in 1944. The Soviets did not admit responsibility
Stalin introduced controversial
military orders, such as Order No. 270 in August 1941, requiring
superiors to shoot deserters on the spot while their family members
were subject to arrest. Thereafter, Stalin also conducted a purge of
several military commanders that were shot for "cowardice" without a
trial. Stalin issued Order No. 227 in July 1942, directing that
commanders permitting retreat without permission to be subject to a
military tribunal, and soldiers guilty of disciplinary procedures to
be forced into "penal battalions", which were sent to the most
dangerous sections of the front lines. From 1942 to 1945, 427,910
soldiers were assigned to penal battalions. The order also directed
"blocking detachments" to shoot fleeing panicked troops at the rear.
In June 1941, weeks after the
German invasion began, Stalin also directed employing a scorched
earth policy of destroying the infrastructure and food supplies of
areas before the Germans could seize them, and that partisans were
to be set up in evacuated areas. He also ordered the NKVD to murder
around one hundred thousand political prisoners in areas where the
Wehrmacht approached, while others were deported east.
Beria's proposal from 29 January
1942 to execute 46 Soviet generals. Stalin's resolution: "Shoot all
named in the list. – J. St."
After the capture of Berlin, Soviet troops reportedly raped from
tens of thousands to two million women, and 50,000 during and
after the occupation of Budapest. Many of these women died
or committed suicide as a result of rape. In former Axis countries,
such as Germany, Romania and Hungary, Red Army officers generally
viewed cities, villages and farms as being open to pillaging and
In the Soviet Occupation Zone of
post-war Germany, the Soviets set up ten NKVD-run "special camps"
subordinate to the gulag. These "special camps" were former Stalags, prisons, or Nazi concentration camps such as Sachsenhausen
(special camp number 7) and Buchenwald (special camp number 2).
According to German government estimates, "65,000 people died in
those Soviet-run camps or in transportation to them."
According to recent figures, of an
estimated four million POWs taken by the Soviets, including Germans,
Japanese, Hungarians, Romanians and others, some 580,000 never
returned, presumably victims of privation or the Gulags. German
estimates put the actual death toll of German POWs in the USSR at
about 1 million, they maintain that among those reported as missing
were men who actually died as POWs. Soviet POWs and forced
laborers who survived German captivity were sent to special
"transit" or "filtration" camps to determine which were potential
Of the approximately 4 million to
be repatriated 2,660,013 were civilians and 1,539,475 were former
POWs. Of the total, 2,427,906 were sent home and 801,152 were
reconscripted into the armed forces. 608,095 were enrolled in the
work battalions of the defense ministry. 272,867 were transferred to
the authority of the NKVD for punishment, which meant a transfer to
the Gulag system. 89,468 remained in the transit
camps as reception personnel until the repatriation process was
finally wound up in the early 1950s.
The Big Three: Stalin, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the Tehran Conference,
Allied conferences on post-war
Stalin met in several conferences with British Prime Minister
Winston Churchill (and later Clement Attlee) and/or U.S. President
Franklin D. Roosevelt (and later Harry Truman) to plan military
strategy and, later, to discuss Europe's postwar reorganization.
Very early conferences, such as that with British diplomats in
Moscow in 1941 and with Churchill and American diplomats in Moscow
in 1942, focused mostly upon war planning and supply, though some
preliminary postwar reorganization discussion also occurred. In
1943, Stalin met with Churchill and Roosevelt in the Tehran
Conference. In 1944, Stalin met with Churchill in the Moscow
Conference. Beginning in late 1944, the Red Army occupied much of
Eastern Europe during these conferences and the discussions shifted
to a more intense focus on the reorganization of postwar Europe.
In February 1945, at the conference
at Yalta, Stalin demanded a Soviet sphere of political influence in
Eastern Europe. Stalin eventually was convinced by Churchill and
Roosevelt not to dismember Germany. Stalin also stated that the
Polish government-in-exile demands for self-rule were not
negotiable, such that the Soviet Union would keep the territory of
eastern Poland they had already taken by invasion with German
consent in 1939, and wanted the pro-Soviet Polish government
installed. After resistance by Churchill and Roosevelt, Stalin
promised a re-organization of the current Communist puppet
government on a broader democratic basis in Poland. He stated
the new government's primary task would be to prepare
The parties at Yalta further agreed
that the countries of liberated Europe and former Axis satellites
would be allowed to "create democratic institutions of their own
choice", pursuant to "the right of all peoples to choose the form of
government under which they will live." The parties also agreed
to help those countries form interim governments "pledged to the
earliest possible establishment through free elections" and
"facilitate where necessary the holding of such elections."
After the re-organization of the Provisional Government of the
Republic of Poland, the parties agreed that the new party shall "be
pledged to the holding of free and unfettered elections as soon as
possible on the basis of universal suffrage and secret ballot."
One month after Yalta, the Soviet NKVD arrested 16 Polish leaders
wishing to participate in provisional government negotiations, for
alleged "crimes" and "diversions", which drew protest from the
West.] The fraudulent Polish elections, held in January 1947
resulted in Poland's official transformation to undemocratic
communist state by 1949.
British Prime Minister Clement
Attlee, U.S. President Harry S. Truman and Joseph Stalin at the
Potsdam Conference, July 1945.
At the Potsdam Conference from July to August 1945, though Germany
had surrendered months earlier, instead of withdrawing Soviet forces
from Eastern European countries, Stalin had not moved those forces.
At the beginning of the conference, Stalin repeated previous
promises to Churchill that he would refrain from a "Sovietization"
of Eastern Europe. Stalin pushed for reparations from Germany
without regard to the base minimum supply for German citizens'
survival, which worried Truman and Churchill who thought that
Germany would become a financial burden for Western powers.
In addition to reparations, Stalin
pushed for "war booty", which would permit the Soviet Union to
directly seize property from conquered nations without quantitative
or qualitative limitation, and a clause was added permitting this to
occur with some limitations. By July 1945, Stalin's troops
effectively controlled the Baltic States, Poland, Czechoslovakia,
Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania, and refugees were fleeing out of
these countries fearing a Communist take-over. The western allies,
and especially Churchill, were suspicious of the motives of Stalin,
who had already installed communist governments in the central
European countries under his influence.
In these conferences, his first
appearances on the world stage, Stalin proved to be a formidable
negotiator. Anthony Eden, the British Foreign Secretary noted:
"Marshal Stalin as a negotiator was the toughest proposition of all.
Indeed, after something like thirty years' experience of
international conferences of one kind and another, if I had to pick
a team for going into a conference room, Stalin would be my first
choice. Of course the man was ruthless and of course he knew his
purpose. He never wasted a word. He never stormed, he was seldom
The Eastern Bloc until 1989
Post-war era, 1945–1953
The Iron Curtain and the Eastern Bloc
After Soviet forces remained in Eastern and Central European
countries, with the beginnings of communist puppet regimes in those
countries, Churchill referred to the region as being behind an "Iron
Curtain" of control from Moscow. The countries under
Soviet control in Eastern and Central Europe were sometimes called
the "Eastern bloc" or "Soviet Bloc".
In Soviet-controlled East Germany, the major task of the ruling
communist party in Germany was to channel Soviet orders down to both
the administrative apparatus and the other bloc parties pretending
that these were initiatives of its own, with deviations potentially
leading to reprimands, imprisonment, torture and even death.
Property and industry were nationalized.
The German Democratic Republic was
declared on 7 October 1949, with a new constitution which enshrined
socialism and gave the Soviet-controlled Socialist Unity Party (SED)
control. In Berlin, after citizens strongly rejected communist
candidates in an election, in June 1948, the Soviet Union blockaded
West Berlin, the portion of Berlin not under Soviet control, cutting
off all supply of food and other items. The blockade failed due to
the unexpected massive aerial resupply campaign carried out by the
Western powers known as the Berlin Airlift. In 1949, Stalin conceded
defeat and ended the blockade.
While Stalin had promised at the
Yalta Conference that free elections would be held in Poland,
after an election failure in "3 times YES" elections, vote
rigging was employed to win a majority in the carefully controlled
poll. Following the forged referendum, the Polish
economy started to become nationalized.
In Hungary, when the Soviets
installed a communist government, Mátyás Rákosi, who described
himself as "Stalin's best Hungarian disciple" and "Stalin's
best pupil", took power. Rákosi employed "salami tactics",
slicing up these enemies like pieces of salami, to battle the
initial postwar political majority ready to establish a democracy. Rákosi, employed Stalinist political and economic
programs, and was dubbed the "bald murderer" for establishing one of
the harshest dictatorships in Europe. Approximately
350,000 Hungarian officials and intellectuals were purged from 1948
During World War II, in Bulgaria,
the Red Army crossed the border and created the conditions for a
communist coup d'état on the following night. The Soviet military
commander in Sofia assumed supreme authority, and the communists
whom he instructed, including Kimon Georgiev, took full control of
In 1949, the Soviet Union,
Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania founded the
Comecon in accordance with Stalin's desire to enforce Soviet
domination of the lesser states of Central Europe and to mollify
some states that had expressed interest in the Marshall Plan,
and which were now, increasingly, cut off from their traditional
markets and suppliers in Western Europe. Czechoslovakia,
Hungary, and Poland had remained interested in Marshall aid despite
the requirements for a convertible currency and market economies. In
July 1947, Stalin ordered these communist-dominated governments to
pull out of the Paris Conference on the European Recovery Programme.
This has been described as "the moment of truth" in the post–World
War II division of Europe.
In Greece, Britain and the United
States supported the anti-communists in the Greek Civil War and
suspected the Soviets of supporting the Greek communists, although
Stalin refrained from getting involved in Greece, dismissing the
movement as premature. Albania remained an ally of the Soviet Union,
but Yugoslavia broke with the USSR in 1948.
In Stalin's last year of life, one
of his last major foreign policy initiatives was the 1952 Stalin
Note for German reunification and Superpower disengagement from
Central Europe, but Britain, France, and the United States viewed
this with suspicion and rejected the offer.
Mao at Stalin's 70th birthday
celebration in Moscow, December 1949
In Asia, the Red Army had overrun Manchuria in the last month of the
war and then also occupied Korea above the 38th parallel north. Mao
Zedong's Communist Party of China, though receptive to minimal
Soviet support, defeated the pro-Western and heavily
American-assisted Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT) in the
Chinese Civil War.
There was friction between Stalin
and Mao from the beginning. During World War II Stalin had supported
the dictator of China, Chiang Kai-Shek, as a bulwark against Japan
and had turned a blind eye to Chiang's mass killings of communists.
He generally put his alliance with Chiang against Japan ahead of
helping his ideological allies in China in his priorities. Even
after the war Stalin concluded a non-aggression pact between the
USSR and Chiang's KMT regime in China and instructed Mao and the
Chinese communists to cooperate with Chiang and the KMT after the
war. Mao did not follow Stalin's instructions though and started a
communist revolution against Chiang. Stalin did not believe Mao
would be successful so he was less than enthusiastic in helping Mao.
The USSR continued to maintain diplomatic relations with Chiang's
KMT regime until 1949 when it became clear Mao would win.
Stalin supported the Turkic Muslims
known today as Uyghur in seeking their own state, Second East
Turkestan Republic during the Ili Rebellion against the Republic of
China. He backed the Uyghur Communist Muslim leader Ehmetjan Qasim
against the anti Communist Chinese Kuomintang forces.
Stalin did conclude a new
friendship and alliance treaty with Mao after he defeated Chiang.
But there was still a lot of tension between the two leaders and
resentment by Mao for Stalin's less than enthusiastic help during
the civil war in China.
The Communists controlled mainland China while the Nationalists held
a rump state on the island of Taiwan. The Soviet Union soon after
recognized Mao's People's Republic of China, which it regarded as a
new ally. The People's Republic claimed Taiwan, though it had never
held authority there.
Diplomatic relations between the
Soviet Union and China reached a high point with the signing of the
1950 Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance. Both countries
provided military support to a new friendly state in North Korea.
After various Korean border conflicts, war broke out with
U.S.-allied South Korea in 1950, starting the Korean War.
However, not surprisingly, the
relations with the Kuomintang deteriorated. In 1951, in Taiwan, the
Chinese Muslim Kuomintang General Bai Chongxi made a speech
broadcast on radio to the entire Muslim world calling for a war
against Russia, claiming that the "imperialist ogre" leader Stalin
was engineering World War III, and Bai also called upon Muslims to
avoid the Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru, accusing him of being
blind to Soviet imperialism.
North Korea and the Korean War
Contrary to America's policy which restrained armament (limited
equipment was provided for infantry and police forces) to South
Korea, Stalin extensively armed Kim Il Sung's North Korean army and
air forces with military equipment and "advisors" far in excess of
those required for defensive purposes in order to facilitate Kim's
(a former Soviet Officer) aim of conquering the rest of the Korean
The North Korean Army struck in the
pre-dawn hours of Sunday, 25 June 1950, crossing the 38th parallel
behind a firestorm of artillery, beginning their invasion of South
Korea. During the Korean War, Soviet pilots flew Soviet
aircraft from Chinese bases against United Nations aircraft
defending South Korea. Post-Cold War research in Soviet Archives has
revealed that the Korean War was begun by Kim Il-sung with the
express permission of Stalin.
Stalin originally supported the creation of Israel in 1948. The USSR
was one of the first nations to recognize the new country.
Golda Meir came to Moscow as the first Israeli Ambassador to the
USSR that year. However, after providing war materiel for Israel
through Czechoslovakia from 1947 to 1949, Stalin later changed his
mind and came out against Israel.
Falsifiers of History
In 1948, Stalin personally edited and rewrote by hand sections of
the cold war book Falsifiers of History. Falsifiers was
published in response to the documents made public in Nazi-Soviet
Relations, 1939–1941: Documents from the Archives of The German
Foreign Office, which included the secret protocols of the
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and other secret German-Soviet relations
documents. Falsifiers originally appeared as a series of articles in
Pravda in February 1948, and was subsequently
published in numerous languages and distributed worldwide.
The book did not attempt to
directly counter or deal with the documents published in Nazi-Soviet
Relations and rather, focused upon Western culpability for the
outbreak of war in 1939. It argues that "Western powers" aided
Nazi rearmament and aggression, including that American bankers and
industrialists provided capital for the growth of German war
industries, while deliberately encouraging Hitler to expand
eastward. It depicted the Soviet Union as striving to negotiate
a collective security against Hitler, while being thwarted by
double-dealing Anglo-French appeasers who, despite appearances, had
no intention of a Soviet alliance and were secretly negotiating with
Berlin. It casts the Munich agreement, not just as Anglo-French
short-sightedness or cowardice, but as a "secret" agreement that was
"a highly important phase in their policy aimed at goading the Hitlerite aggressors against the Soviet Union." The book also
included the claim that, during the Pact's operation, Stalin
rejected Hitler's offer to share in a division of the world, without
mentioning the Soviet offers to join the Axis. Historical studies,
official accounts, memoirs and textbooks published in the Soviet
Union used that depiction of events until the Soviet Union's
Domestically, Stalin was seen as a great wartime leader who had led
the Soviets to victory against the Nazis.
An increasingly nationalistic
emphasis on Russian history and achievements became a salient
feature of Soviet culture in the 1940s. At the end of May 1945,
Stalin proposed a victory toast to the Soviet people, and to the
virtues of the Russian majority in particular:
I should like to propose a toast to
the health of our Soviet people, and in the first place, the Russian
people. (Loud and prolonged applause and shouts of 'Hurrah!')
I drink in the first place to the
health of the Russian people because it is the most outstanding
nation of all the nations forming the Soviet Union.
I propose a toast to the health of the Russian people because it has
won in this war universal recognition as the leading force of the
Soviet Union among all the peoples of our country.
I propose a toast to the health of the Russian people not only
because it is the leading people, but also because it possesses a
clear mind, a staunch character, and patience.
The "Doctors' plot" was a plot outlined by Stalin and Soviet
officials in 1952 and 1953 whereby several doctors (over half of
whom were Jewish) allegedly attempted to kill Soviet officials.
The prevailing opinion of many scholars outside the Soviet Union is
that Stalin intended to use the resulting doctors' trial to launch a
massive party purge. The plot is also viewed by many historians
as an antisemitic provocation. It followed on the heels of the
1952 show trials of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee and the
secret execution of thirteen members on Stalin's orders in the Night
of the Murdered Poets.
Thereafter, in a December Politburo
session, Stalin announced that "Every Jewish nationalist is the
agent of the American intelligence service. Jewish nationalists
think that their nation was saved by the United States (there you
can become rich, bourgeois, etc.). They think they're indebted to
the Americans. Among doctors, there are many Jewish
nationalists." To mobilize the Soviet people for his campaign,
Stalin ordered TASS and Pravda to issue stories along with Stalin's
alleged uncovering of a "Doctors Plot" to assassinate top Soviet
leaders, including Stalin, in order to set the stage for
The next month, Pravda published
stories with text regarding the purported "Jewish
bourgeois-nationalist" plotters. Nikita Khrushchev wrote that
Stalin hinted him to incite anti-Semitism in the Ukraine, telling
him that "the good workers at the factory should be given clubs so
they can beat the hell out of those Jews." Stalin also
ordered falsely accused physicians to be tortured "to death".
Regarding the origins of the plot, people who knew Stalin, such as
Khrushchev, suggest that Stalin had long harbored negative
sentiments toward Jews, and anti-Semitic trends in
the Kremlin's policies were further fueled by the exile of Leon
Trotsky. In 1946, Stalin allegedly said privately that
"every Jew is a potential spy." At the end of January
1953, Stalin's personal physician Miron Vovsi (cousin of Solomon
Mikhoels, who was assassinated in 1948 at the orders of Stalin)
was arrested within the frame of the plot. Vovsi was released by
Beria after Stalin's death in 1953, as was his son-in-law, the
composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg.
Some historians have argued that
Stalin was also planning to send millions of Jews to four large
newly built labor camps in Western Russia using a
"Deportation Commission" that would purportedly act
to save Soviet Jews from an enraged Soviet population after the
Doctors Plot trials. Others argue that any charge of
an alleged mass deportation lacks specific documentary
evidence. Regardless of whether a plot to deport Jews was
planned, in his "Secret Speech" in 1956, Soviet Premier Nikita
Khrushchev stated that the Doctors Plot was "fabricated ... set up
by Stalin", that Stalin told the judge to beat confessions from the
defendants and had told Politburo members "You are blind like
young kittens. What will happen without me? The country will perish
because you do not know how to recognize enemies."
Joseph Stalin, lying in state in
Hall of Columns of the House of Unions in Moscow.
Death and legacy
Stalin's health deteriorated towards the end of World War II. He
suffered from atherosclerosis from his heavy smoking, a mild stroke
around the time of the Victory Parade, and a severe heart attack in
In the early morning hours of 1
March 1953, after an all-night dinner and a movie, Stalin
arrived at his Kuntsevo residence 15 km west of Moscow centre, with
interior minister Lavrentiy Beria and future premiers Georgy
Malenkov, Nikolai Bulganin, and Nikita Khrushchev, where he retired
to his bedroom to sleep. At dawn, Stalin did not emerge from his
Stalin's grave in the Kremlin Wall
Although his guards thought that it was strange not to see him awake
at his usual time, they were strictly instructed not to bother him
and left him alone the entire day. At around 10 p.m., he was
discovered by Peter Lozgachev, the Deputy Commandant of Kuntsevo,
who entered his bedroom to check on him and recalled the scene of
Stalin lying on his back on the floor of his room beside his bed,
wearing pyjama bottoms and an undershirt, with his clothes soaked in
stale urine. A frightened Lozgachev asked Stalin what happened to
him, but all he could get out of him was unintelligible responses
that sounded like "Dzhhhhh." Lozgachev used the bedroom telephone to
frantically call a few party officials; he told them that Stalin may
have had a stroke and asked them to send good doctors to the
Kuntsevo residence immediately. Lavrentiy Beria was
informed and arrived a few hours afterwards. The doctors arrived in
the early morning of 2 March when they changed Stalin's bedclothes
and tended to him. They diagnosed him with a cerebral hemorrhage
(stroke) caused by hypertension (high blood pressure), with stomach
hemorrhage facilitating. He was treated in his dacha with
leeches, as was customary at the time. On March 3 his double
Felix Dadaev was called back from vacation to Moscow "to be ready to
stand in for Stalin if needed", but he never needed to. On March 4
Stalin's illness was broadcast in the media with surprising detail
such as pulse, blood pressure and urinalysis; for convenience the
time of his stroke was said to be March 2 and his location as
Moscow. The bedridden Stalin died on 5 March 1953, at the age of
Suggestions of assassination
The political memoirs of Vyacheslav Molotov, published in 1993,
claimed that Beria had boasted to Molotov that he poisoned Stalin:
"I took him out."
Stomach hemorrhage is usually not
caused by high blood pressure, but is, along with stroke, consistent
with overdose of warfarin, a colorless, tasteless, anticoagulant
drug. In the treating physicians' final report submitted to the
Central Committee in July 1953, any mention of the stomach
hemorrhage was "deleted or vastly subordinated to other
information." In 2004, American historian Jonathan Brent and
Russia's Presidential Commission for the Rehabilitation of Repressed
Persons executive secretary Vladimir Naumov published a book
proposing that Beria, with the complicity of Khrushchev, slipped
warfarin into Stalin's wine on the night of his death.
Stalin's autopsy, conducted by the
Soviet Ministry of Health in March 1953 but not released until 2011,
confirmed the cause of death as stroke resulting from high blood
pressure, and that hypertension had caused cardiac hemorrhage (not
usually caused by high blood pressure) and gastrointestinal
hemorrhage as well. In 2011, Miguel A. Faria, President of Mercer
University School of Medicine, retired clinical professor of
neurosurgery and adjunct professor of medical history, interpreted
the autopsy's composition as the examiners' desire to demonstrate
for posterity that they had fulfilled their professional duties as
best they could by mentioning the non-cerebral hemorrhages. At the
same time they would have provided themselves political cover by
purposely attributing the hemorrhages to hypertension instead of
poisoning by warfarin. Faria noted that when the autopsy was
performed, "Stalin was worshipped as a demigod, and his
assassination would have been unacceptable to the Russian populace."
He also notes that Stalin experienced renal hemorrhages during his
death, which is unlikely to be caused by high blood pressure.
Yuri Levitan, the announcer who during the war brought the Soviet
people news of victories—but never of defeats—announced Stalin's
death. Slowly, solemnly, with a voice brimming over with emotion, he
The Central Committee of the
Communist party, the Council of Ministers and the Presidium of the
Supreme Soviet of the USSR announce with deep grief to the party and
all workers that on 5 March, at 9.50 p.m., Iosif Vissarionovich
Stalin, Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist party
and Chairman of the Council of Ministers, has died after a serious
illness. The heart of the collaborator and follower of the genius of
Lenin's work, the wise leader and teacher of the Communist party and
of the Soviet people, has stopped beating.
After a visitation of 1.5 million
people, his embalmed body was laid to rest on March 9, 1953 in
Lenin's Mausoleum. On 31 October 1961 his body was removed from the
mausoleum and buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis next to the
Kremlin walls as part of the process of de-Stalinization.
His demise arrived at a convenient time for Lavrentiy Beria and
others, who feared being swept away in yet another purge. It is
believed that Stalin felt Beria's power was too great and threatened
After Stalin's death a power
struggle for his vacant position took place between the following
eight senior members of the Presidium of the Central Committee of
the Communist Party of the Soviet Union listed according to the
order of precedence presented formally on 5 March 1953: Georgy
Malenkov, Lavrentiy Beria, Vyacheslav Molotov, Klim Voroshilov,
Nikita Khrushchev, Nikolai Bulganin, Lazar Kaganovich, Anastas
This struggle lasted until 1958 and
eventually Khrushchev won, having defeated all his potential rivals
in the Presidium.
Reaction by successors
The harshness with which Soviet affairs were conducted during
Stalin's rule was subsequently repudiated by his successors in the
Communist Party leadership, most notably by Nikita Khrushchev's
repudiation of Stalinism in February 1956. In his "Secret Speech",
On the Personality Cult and its Consequences, delivered to a closed
session of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet
Union, Khrushchev denounced Stalin for his cult of personality, and
his regime for "violation of Leninist norms of legality".
A 1974 Soviet work describes
Stalin's leadership in the following manner:
J. V. Stalin had held, since 1922,
the post of General Secretary of the Communist Party Central
Committee. He had made important contributions to the implementation
of the Party's policy of socialist construction in the USSR, and he
had won great popularity by his relentless fight against the
anti-Leninist groups of the Trotskyites and Bukharinites. Since the
early 1930s, however, all the successes achieved by the Soviet
people in the building of socialism began to be arbitrarily
attributed to Stalin. Already in a letter written back in 1922 Lenin
warned the Party Central Committee: "Comrade Stalin," he wrote,
"having become general secretary, has concentrated boundless
authority in his hands, and I am not sure whether he will always be
able to exercise that authority with sufficient discretion." During
the first few years after Lenin's death Stalin reckoned with his
critical remarks. As time passed, however, he abused his position of
General Secretary of the Party Central Committee more and more
frequently, violating the principle of collective leadership and
making independent decisions on important Party and state issues.
Those personal shortcomings of which Lenin had warned manifested
themselves with greater and greater insistence: his rudeness,
capriciousness, intolerance of criticism, arbitrariness, excessive
suspiciousness, etc. This led to unjustified restrictions of
democracy, gross violations of socialist legality and repressions
against prominent Party, government and military leaders and other
Views on Stalin in the Russian
Results of a controversial poll taken in 2006 stated that over 35%
of Russians would vote for Stalin if he were still alive.
Fewer than a third of all Russians regarded Stalin as a "murderous
tyrant"; however, a Russian court in 2009, ruling on a suit by
Stalin's grandson Yevgeny Dzhugashvili against the newspaper Novaya
Gazeta, ruled that referring to Stalin as a "bloodthirsty cannibal"
was not libel. In a July 2007 poll, 54% of the Russian youth
agreed that Stalin did more good than bad while 46% (of them)
disagreed that Stalin was a "cruel tyrant". Half of the respondents,
aged from 16 to 19, agreed Stalin was a wise leader.
In December 2008, Stalin was voted
third in the nationwide television project Name of Russia (narrowly
behind 13th-century prince Alexander Nevsky and Pyotr Stolypin, one
of Nicholas II's prime ministers). The Communist Party accused the
Kremlin in rigging the poll in order to prevent him or Lenin being
given first place.
On 3 July 2009, Russia's delegates
walked out of an Organization for Security and Co-operation in
Europe session to demonstrate their objections to a resolution for a
remembrance day for the "victims of both Nazism and Stalinism".
Only eight out of 385 assembly members voted against the
In a Kremlin video blog posted on
29 October 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev denounced the
efforts of people seeking to rehabilitate Stalin's image. He said
the mass extermination during the Stalin era cannot be
In a 2013 Q&A session, when asked
whether Russia should restore statues of its Soviet-era leaders,
Russian President Vladimir Putin replied "What is the essential
difference between (Oliver) Cromwell and (Joseph) Stalin? Can you
tell me? No difference...(Cromwell's) monument is standing, (and) no
one is going to remove it. The essence is not in these symbols, but
in the need to treat with respect every period of our
Views on Stalin in other former
The BBC News reported that "Lasha Bakradze, a professor of Soviet
history at Tbilisi University, recently presented a new survey
commissioned by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,
which found that 45% of Georgians expressed a positive attitude to
In a poll taken by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology in
February 2013, 37% of all Ukrainians had "a negative attitude to the
figure of Stalin" and 22% "a positive [one]". Positive
attitudes prevailed in East Ukraine (36%) and South Ukraine (27%),
and negative attitudes in West Ukraine (64%) and Central Ukraine
(39%). In the age group 18–29, 16% had positive feelings
Early 2010 a Ukrainian court
convicted Stalin of genocide against the Ukrainian nation during the
Soviet famine of 1932–1933.
In the spring of 2010 a new
monument in honor of Stalin was erected in Zaporizhia. In late
December 2010 the statue had his head cut off by unidentified
vandals and the following New Year's Eve it was completely destroyed
in an explosion. On 25 February 2011 Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych stated "Ukraine will definitely not revise its negative
view" on Stalin. Ukraine and Poland unveiled a memorial
(outside Kiev) to the thousands of Ukrainians, Poles and others
killed by Stalin's secret police ahead of World War II in September
According to a 2012 study, 72% of Armenians do not want to live in a
country led by someone like Stalin.
Stalin walking on a Moscow sidewalk in the late 1920s
Origin of name, nicknames and pseudonyms
Stalin's original Georgian name is transliterated as "Ioseb
Besarionis dze Jughashvili" (Georgian: იოსებ ბესარიონის ძე ჯუღაშვილი).
The Russian transliteration of his name Ио́сиф Виссарио́нович
Джугашви́ли is in turn transliterated to English as "Iosif
Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili". Like other Bolsheviks, he became
commonly known by one of his revolutionary noms de guerre, of which
"Stalin" was only the last. "Stalin" is based on the Russian word
сталь stal, meaning "steel", and the name as a whole is supposed to
mean "man of steel". Prior nicknames included "Koba", "Soselo",
"Ivanov" and many others.
Stalin is believed to have started
using the name "K. Stalin" sometime in 1912 as a pen name.
During Stalin's reign his nicknames
"Uncle Joe", by western media,
during and after World War II.
"Kremlin Highlander" (Russian: кремлевский горец), in reference his
Caucasus Mountains origin, notably by Osip Mandelstam in his Stalin
"Vozhd"' (Russian: Вождь, "the Chieftain"), a term equivalent to
the English word "Leader".
While photographs and portraits portray Stalin as physically massive
and majestic (he had several painters shot who did not depict him
"right"), he was only 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 m) tall
(President Harry S. Truman, who stood 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m)
himself, described Stalin as "a little squirt"). His mustached
face was pock-marked from small-pox during childhood. After a
carriage accident in his youth, his left arm was shortened and
stiffened at the elbow, while his right hand was thinner than his
left and frequently hidden. Bronze casts made in 1990 from
plaster death mask and plaster cards of his hands clearly show a
normal right hand and a withered left hand. He could be charming and polite, mainly towards visiting
statesmen. In movies, Stalin was often played by Mikheil
Gelovani and, less frequently, by Aleksei Dikiy.
Marriages and family
Stalin married his first wife Ekaterina Svanidze in 1906, with whom
he had a son, Yakov. Yakov shot himself because of Stalin's
harshness toward him, but survived. After this, Stalin said, "He
can't even shoot straight." Yakov served in the Red Army during
World War II and was captured by the Germans. They offered to
exchange him for Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, who had surrendered
after Stalingrad, but Stalin turned the offer down, stating, "You
have in your hands not only my son Yakov, but millions of my sons.
Either you free them all or my son will share their fate."
Afterwards, Yakov is said to have committed suicide, running into an
electric fence in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he was
being held. Yakov had a son Yevgeny, who has recently defended
his grandfather's legacy in Russian courts. Yevgeny is married to a
Georgian woman, has two sons, and seven grandchildren.
With his second wife Nadezhda Alliluyeva Stalin had a son, Vasiliy,
and a daughter, Svetlana. Nadezhda died in 1932, officially of
illness. She may have committed suicide by shooting herself after a
quarrel with Stalin, leaving a suicide note which according to their
daughter was "partly personal, partly political." According to
A&E Biography, there is also a belief among some Russians that
Stalin himself murdered his wife after the quarrel, which apparently
took place at a dinner in which Stalin tauntingly flicked cigarettes
across the table at her.
Vasiliy rose through the ranks of
the Soviet Air Force, officially dying of alcoholism in 1962;
however, this is still in question. He distinguished himself in
World War II as a capable airman. Svetlana defected to the United
States in 1967, where she later married William Wesley Peters, the
apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright. She died in Richland Center,
Wisconsin on November 22, 2011, from complications of colon
cancer. Olga, her daughter with Peters, now goes by the name Chrese Evans and lives in Portland, Oregon.
In March 2001, Russian Independent
Television NTV interviewed a previously unknown grandson living in
Novokuznetsk, Yuri Davydov, who stated that his father had told him
of his lineage, but, was told to keep quiet because of the campaign
against Stalin's cult of personality.
Beside his suite in the Kremlin,
Stalin had numerous domiciles. In 1919, he started with a country
house near Usovo, he added dachas at Zuvalova and Kuntsevo (Blizhny
dacha built by Miron Merzhanov). Before World War II he added the
Lipki estate and Semyonovskaya,[disambiguation needed] and had at
least four dachas in the south by 1937, including one near Sochi. A
luxury villa near Gagri was given to him by Beria. In Abkhazia he
maintained a mountain retreat. After the war he added dachas at Novy
Afon, near Sukhumi, in the Valdai Hills, and at Lake Mitsa. Another
estate was near Zelyony Myss on the Black Sea. All these dachas,
estates, and palaces were staffed, well-furnished and equipped, kept
safe by security forces, and were mainly used privately, rarely for
diplomatic purposes. Between places Stalin would travel by car
or train, never by air; he flew only once when attending the 1943
Ekaterina "Kato" Svanidze,
Kato Svanidze (April 2, 1880 – December 5, 1907) was the
Georgian first wife of Joseph Stalin. They were married in
Ekaterina, nicknamed Kato, was a tailor who worked for
the ladies of the Russian army.
She had two sisters: Alexandra (nicknamed "Sashiko") and
Maria ("Mariko"). She had at least one brother, but some
sources claim she had more than one. Because her only known
brother Alexander Svanidze spoke German and French and
studied in Germany, it's unlikely that her family was poor.
Alexander Svanidze was married to Maria Korona, a singer at
the Tiflis Opera.
She married Joseph Stalin in 1906 and gave him a son,
Yakov Dzhugashvili. She died of typhus in 1907. Much of her
family (including her sister Mariko and brother Alexander)
would later be executed during her husband's Great Terror.
Stalin would later state that other than his mother she
may have been the only person he truly loved. At her funeral
he told a friend that "with her died any human feeling in
Yakov Iosifovich Dzhugashvili (Georgian: იაკობ ჯუღაშვილი,
Russian: Яков Иосифович Джугашвили) (March 18, 1907–April
14, 1943) was one of Joseph Stalin's four children (along
with Svetlana Alliluyeva, Vasily Dzhugashvili and
Constantine Kuzakov). Yakov was the son of Stalin's first
wife, Ekaterina Svanidze.
Yakov was born in the village of Borji (near Kutaisi) in
Georgia, then part of Imperial Russia. Until the age of
fourteen, Yakov was raised by his aunt in Tbilisi. In 1921,
Yakov’s uncle Alexander Svanidze urged him to leave for
Moscow to acquire a higher education. Yakov only spoke
Georgian and after his arrival in Moscow he commenced with
learning the Russian language, aiming to apply for
Yakov and his father Stalin never got along. Allegedly
once Stalin referred to Yakov as a "mere cobbler." Later
according to Yakov's stepmother Nadezhda Alliluyeva she saw
a young girl running away from their Moscow dacha in tears.
When she entered she saw a despairing Yakov looking near
faint in the room. He ran immediately to his bedroom. It
turned out that the girl was Yakov's Jewish fiancée, and
when they told Stalin of their engagement he became enraged.
While Stalin and his wife were arguing about this a shot
was heard from Yakov's room. Yakov had shot himself. While
she tended to his wounds and sent for a doctor all his
father said was, "He can't even shoot straight."
Dzhugashvili did marry Yulia Meltzer, a well-known Jewish
dancer from Odessa. After meeting Yulia at a reception,
Yakov fought with her second husband, Nikolai Bessarab, and
arranged her divorce. Bessarab was later arrested by the
NKVD and executed. Yakov became her third husband and was
survived by two children. His son, Yevgeni, gave many
interviews about his grandfather. He also had a daughter,
Galina, who died in 2007.
Dzhugashvili served as an artillery officer in the Red
Army and was captured in the early stages of the German
invasion of USSR at the Battle of Smolensk. The Germans
later offered to exchange Yakov for Friedrich Paulus, the
German Field Marshal captured by the Soviets after the
Battle of Stalingrad, but Stalin turned the offer down,
allegedly saying "I will not trade a Marshal for a
Lieutenant". There was another proposition as well, that
Hitler wanted to exchange Yakow for his nephew Leo Raubal;
this proposition was not accepted either
It is not clear when and how he died. According to German
official account, Dzhugashvili died by running into an
electric fence in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp,
where he was being held. Some have contended that Yakov
committed suicide at the camp while others have suggested
that he was murdered.
The United States Defense Department was in possession of
documents which indicated that Yakov Dzhugashvili was shot
trying to escape, which were shown to his daughter Galina
Dzhugashvili in 2003, but which she rejected, claiming that
her father was never taken prisoner by the Germans, but
rather was killed in battle in 1941.
Stalin's second wife,
mother of Vasily and Svetlana.
Nadezhda Sergeevna Alliluyeva (Russian: Надежда Сергеевна
Аллилуева) (22 September 1901 – November 9, 1932) was the
second wife of Joseph Stalin.
Nadezhda was the youngest child of Russian revolutionary
Sergei Alliluyev and his wife Olga, a woman of German and
Georgian ancestry. She first met Stalin as a child when her
father, Sergei Alliluyev, sheltered him after one of his
escapes from Siberian exile in 1911. She may have always
been in love with the mysterious swarthy Georgian with the
yellowish colored eyes who saved her life from drowning when
she was a child. After the revolution, Nadezhda worked as a
confidential code clerk in Lenin's office. She eschewed
fancy dress, make-up and other trappings that she felt
un-befitting of a proper Bolshevik. The couple married in
1919, when Stalin was already a 41 year old widower and
father of one son born to his first wife, who died of typhus
years earlier. Nadezhda and Joseph had two children
together: Vasily, born in 1921, became a figher pilot (C.O.
of 32 GIAP) at Stalingrad and Svetlana, their daughter, was
born in 1926. According to her close friend, Polina Molotov,
the marriage was strained, and the two constantly fought.
She also suffered from a mental illness which may have been
bipolar disorder, Molotov recalled that she suffered from
moodswings which made her seem like a "mad woman." While she
was close to Vasily, she wasn't very close to Svetlana and
was very stern with the children.
After a public spat with Stalin at a party dinner,
Nadezhda was found dead in her bedroom, a revolver by her
side. Regardless, the official announcement was that
Nadezhda died from appendicitis. Two doctors, who refused to
sign a certificate stating false conclusions about the cause
of her death (Levin and Pletnev), were later convicted
during the Trial of the Twenty-One and executed. Some claim
the gun was found beside the hand she didn't use, apparently
pointing to a framed suicide; many in Russia allege that
Stalin killed her himself.
Accounts of contemporaries and Stalin's letters indicate
that he was deeply disturbed by the event.
Today, she is much loved by some Russians; her grave at
Novodevichy Cemetery is often covered in flowers, although
it has also been vandalized on occasion.
Her daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva later emigrated from the
Soviet Union in a high profile defection to the United
States, where she eventually published her autobiography
which included recollections of her parents and their
Josef Stalin and Nadezhda Alliluyeva
Josef Stalin and his wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, on a picnic
Nadezhda & Svetlana - Love and Fate
Stalin with his children:
Vasiliy and Svetlana
Vasily Iosifovich Dzhugashvili (Russian Василий Иосифович
Джугашвили), known also as Vasily Stalin (Russian Василий
Иосифович Сталин), (March 21, 1921 – March 19, 1962), was
the son of Joseph Stalin and his second wife, Nadezhda
Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva (sometimes Stalina, later
Lana Peters) (born February 28, 1926, Moscow, Soviet Union)
(Russian: Светлана Иосифовна Аллилуева) is the youngest
child and only daughter of Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and
Nadezhda Alliluyeva (Stalin's second wife). A writer and
naturalized United States citizen, Alliluyeva caused an
international furor by defecting to the United States in
Joseph Stalin with daughter Svetlana, 1935.
Beria with Stalin (in background),
Stalin's daughter Svetlana, and Nestor Lakoba on Stalin's dacha at
1. Valeria Barsova
2. Olga Lepeshinskaya
3. Natalia Spiller
Stalin enjoyed drinking, and would often force those around him to
join in. He preferred Georgian wine over Russian vodka, but
usually ate traditional Russian food.
Khrushchev reports in his memoirs
that Stalin was fond of American cowboy movies. He would often sleep
until evening in his dacha, and after waking up summon high-ranking
Soviet politicians to watch foreign movies with him in the Kremlin
movie theater. The movies, being in foreign
languages, were given a running translation by Ivan Bolshakov,
people's commissar of cinema. The translations were hilarious
for the audience as Bolshakov spoke very basic English. His favourite films were westerns and Charlie Chaplin episodes. He
banned any hint of nudity. When Ivan showed a film with a naked
woman Stalin shouted, "Are you making a brothel here, Bolshakov?"
After a movie had ended, Stalin often invited the audience for
dinner, even though the clock was usually past midnight. In the
aftermath of the war, he took control over all of Joseph Goebbels'
Stalin was an accomplished
billiards player, and could read 500 pages a day, having a
library of over 20,000 books.
Stalin was also afraid of flying,
which is one reason he chose the site of the Yalta conference so he
could travel by train.
Stalin inspecting the first ZIS,
Stalin was raised in the Georgian Orthodox faith,
but later gave it up. Stalin had a complex relationship with
religious institutions in the Soviet Union. Historians Vladislav Zubok and Constantine Pleshakov have suggested that
"[Stalin's] atheism remained rooted in some vague idea of a God of
During the Second World War, Stalin
reopened the churches. One reason could have been to motivate the
majority of the population, who had Christian beliefs. The reasoning
behind this is that by changing the official policy of the party and
the state towards religion, the Church and its clergymen could be at
his disposal in mobilizing the war effort. On 4 September 1943,
Stalin invited Metropolitan Sergius, Metropolitan Alexius and
Metropolitan Nicholas to the Kremlin and proposed to reestablish the
Moscow Patriarchate, which had been suspended since 1925, and elect
the Patriarch. On 8 September 1943, Metropolitan Sergius was elected
The CPSU Central Committee
continued to promote atheism and the elimination of religion during
the remainder of Stalin's lifetime after the 1943 concordat.
Stalin's greater tolerance for religion after 1943 was limited by
party machinations. Whether persecutions after World War II were
more aimed at certain sections of society over and above detractors
Communist Party of Great Britain
(Marxist–Leninist) contingent at London May Day march in 2008,
carrying a banner of Stalin.
Controversies about Stalin
There are conflicting accounts of Stalin's birth, who before coming
to power in 1922 listed his birth year in various documents as 1878. The phrase "death of one man is a tragedy, death of a
million is a statistic" is sometimes attributed to Stalin, although
there is no proof of his saying that. In addition, hypotheses
and popular rumors exist that Stalin's biological father was
explorer Nicolay Przhevalsky. Some Bolsheviks and others have
accused Stalin of being an agent for the Okhrana. It is also
widely believed that the Red Terror was begun by Stalin.
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