Totalitarian Governments: Stalin’s Communist Russia Directions: As you read, underline evidence you find of key traits of totalitarianism under Stalin’s rule. Then take your findings and fill in the Key Traits of Totalitarianism chart under the



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Totalitarian Governments: Stalin’s Communist Russia

Directions: As you read, underline evidence you find of key traits of totalitarianism under Stalin’s rule. Then take your findings and fill in the Key Traits of Totalitarianism chart under the column, “Russia.”

Once in power, Stalin set out to make the Soviet Union into a modern industrial power. In the past, said Stalin, Russia had suffered defeats because of its economic backwardness. In 1928, therefore, he proposed the first of several “five year plans” aimed at building heavy industry, improving transportation, and increasing farm output.

To achieve this growth, he brought all economic activity under government control. The Soviet Union developed a command economy, in which the government made all basic economic decisions. Under Stalin, the government owned all business and allocated financial and other resources.

Stalin’s five year plans set high production goals, especially for heavy industry and transportation. The government pushed workers and managers to meet these goals by giving bonuses to those who succeeded – and by punishing those who did not.

Despite the impressive progress in some areas, Soviet workers had little to show for their sacrifices. Some former peasants did improve their lives, becoming skilled factory workers and managers. Overall, though, standards of living remained poor. Wages were low, and consumer goods were scarce. Also, central planning was often inefficient, causing shortages in several areas and surpluses in others.

Stalin also brought agriculture under government control. He forced peasants to give up their land and live on state owned farms and collectives, which were farms owned by peasants as a group. The state set all prices and controlled access to farming supplies.

Some peasants resisted collectivization by killing farm animals, destroying tools, and burning crops. The government responded with brutal force. Stalin sought to destroy these peasants, sending them to labor camps where thousands were killed or died from overwork.

In response to collectivization, peasants only grew enough food to feed their families. In response, the government seized all the grain, leaving thousands of peasants to starve. This ruthless policy helped create an extreme famine in which 8 million people died as a result.

Even though Stalin’s power was absolute, he harbored obsessive fears that rival party leaders were plotting against him. In 1934, Stalin launched the Great Purge. In this reign of terror, Stalin and his secret police cracked down on opposition to his rule. Stalin especially targeted “Old Bolsheviks,” party activists that longed for the old days of communism under Lenin’s rule. Stalin’s fears soon spread to industrial managers, writers, and ordinary citizens who were thought to be against him. Those accused were charged with crimes ranging from plotting to overthrow Stalin to not meeting production quotas.

To make an example of such opposition, Stalin held public “show trials.” People confessed to all crimes after officials tortured them or threatened the lives of their families. Many were sent to labor camps in Siberia and others were executed. At least 8 million people were purged during this time period. Those purged were replaced by new party members with absolute loyalty to Stalin.



To ensure obedience, Stalin’s Communist party used secret police, censorship, violent purges, and terror. Police opened mail and planted listening devices. Stalin’s Communist party bombarded people with relentless propaganda. Radios and loudspeakers boomed in villages and factories. Movies portrayed the evils of capitalism and the triumphs of communism. Newsreels and newspapers showed bountiful harvests and new machinery opening up around the country. Posters urged workers to work hard for their country and meet or exceed production quotas. Books were strictly censored by the state and Stalin ordered the writing of a new book called "A short history of the USSR" which had to be used in schools.

Some social benefits were present during Stalin’s rule. Free education was offered to all and every child was required to attend. (What was taught was controlled by the government.) The state also provided free medical care, day care for children for families working in factories and inexpensive housing. Despite these benefits, the standard of living was extremely low. Many lived in poverty, struggling to provide enough food to feed their families, and many were cramped into multi-apartment buildings without basic necessities such as electricity and running water.


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