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Personality of the leaders



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Personality of the leaders

The amount of power

the leaders had




The commitment The success of

to Statehood of the leaders Industrialisation
Standards of Living

The personalities of Stalin and the tsars…

There are clear similarities…



  • Both the tsars and Stalin encouraged personality cults.

  • Until the GPW Stalin, like the N2, sought to wear a low-ranking military uniform to identify himself with the ordinary soldier.

  • Neither the tsars nor Stalin regularly spoke in public. For example, Stalin only addressed the SU nine times in the GPW. This was a long way from FDR’s fire-side chats, or Churchill’s weekly addresses to the House of Commons.

Yet, Stalin was clearly a more successful leader. He was…




  • More intelligent

  • More politic

  • And much crueller !



The amount of power wealded by Stalin and the tsars…
Stalin deliberately identified himself with the successful tsars of the past (such as Peter the Great). The pre-1905 tsars did not have any controls on their power. Their oral command was law, and like Stalin, their leadership was above and beyond the institutions of the state.
Service however suggests that the 1906 Fundamental Law placed “restrictions in both theory and reality” on the powers of N2. By contrast he refers to the “monarchical power of Stalin”and continues that he ”had even more personal control than Ivan the Terrible”.

The commitment to statehood…
Both the tsars and Stalin placed the glory and security of the state above the needs and rights of the individual. They both saw Russia’s image abroad as a manifestation of their personal reputation.
However, whilst the tsars involved themselves in the diplomacy of the Concert of Europe, Stalin was more xenophobic than any of the three tsars in our period.

Industrialisation…
Both Stalin and the tsars understood that industrialisation meant increased security, and held the key to Great Power status. Both regimes could also be said to have exploited the peasantry to speed the modernisation process, and both favoured great projects (eg, the Trans-Siberian Railway and the White Sea Canal).
However, whilst all three of the given tsars wanted rapid industrial growth, there are important differences between Stalin’s industrial development, and that pre-1917…


  • Above all Stalin achieved much more. The scale and scope of industrialisation of the 5Yplans meant that the SU could fight off the German invasion of 1940, whilst the tsars were not able to defend their regime.

  • The tsars (through the Witte system) wanted, on the whole, to join the international capitalist system (eg, joining the Gold Standard). Stalin however wanted a Communist command economy.

  • There was a clear ideological element to Stalin’s industrialisation. Cities such as Magnitogorsk were a reflection of what Stalin called the “reconstruction of the human soul”.



Attitude to Russians…
Whilst the tsars followed policies such as Russification, by the end of their rule most Russians did not feel that they gained from the Romanovs. Conversely, whilst Stalin increasingly presented himself as Russian nationalist, he mercilessly attacked key elements of Russian life. These included…

  • The Mir

  • The Peasant

  • Orthodoxy (described by H.Rogger as one of the three “props” of Romanov rule ~ the others were the Army and the nobility).


Standards of Living…
Both the tsars and Stalin showed little regard for the condition of either the peasantry or the urban working classes. However…

  • It would be fair to suggest that in the short term, the poor suffered much more under Stalin (Eg Collectivisation).

  • Whilst the A3 and N2 hoped to keep Russia in a frozen state, Stalin did aspire to a Soviet modernity, where, unlike in Capitalist countries, everyone was employed, educated, and housed.


2. A comparison between Stalin and Lenin.

There is much historical debate about the extent to which Stalinism emerged out of Leninism. For example, Richard Pipes suggests very clearly that Lenin should be viewed as the begetter of Stalinism.


This is an extreme view, and seems to fly in the face of Lenin’s Personal Testament of 1922, which suggested that he believed that Stalin was untrustworthy and should be removed from the line of command. However, whilst Service does not support Pipes’ argument, he does stress that they had a genuinely close working relationship between 1917 and 1922, and the areas of disagreement “were not cardinal features of the state”.




Lenin wanted to continue the State’s monopoly on foreign trade, whilst Stalin to stop aspects of this to reduce smuggling.



Lenin wanted factory workers involved in the running of the Party and the State, whilst Stalin thought they would reduce the quality of government.

However, they agreed on much more…

The use of dictatorship in

the name of the working classes

The One Party State The importance of Marxism




The use of terror.

Lenin believed that the State should be able to break its own rules. Access to the Soviet archives has led us to believe that his use of Terror was much more extensive than previously thought.

Hence, Service concludes that agreement is the dominant theme between the rule of the two Communist leaders. “They disagreed about important matters, but not fundamental matters”.



3. How far was Stalin’s rule unique ?
There are six key areas where Stalin’s rule showed little precedent in early rule…

The scale of Terror used


The power at his disposal Collectivisation.


“Socialism in One Country” Attitude towards Russians


The Cult of Stalin

Summary Box


As the given diagram shows, there are many peculiarities to Stalin's rule. However, there are also many connections with earlier rulers. The closest links are with Lenin. There are also (less) significant connections with the tsars.
Almost unrelenting Repression is the most dominant theme of the hundred years.
The most important difference of Stalin's rule was the scale and scope of his policies.


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