Stalin succeeded Lenin and transformed the Soviet government. He got rid of opposition and tried to gain total control over everything in the Soviet Union. He controlled the government, economy, and many other aspects of the people’s private lives.

  • A Government of Total Control

    Totalitarianism is a system of government where there is complete state control over life. These leaders claim to be providing security and guiding a better future. In the 20th century, mass communication made it easier to reach into everyone’s life.

    The totalitarian leaders often used secret police to crush opposition and make everyone afraid of accusations that they were an enemy of the state.

    The totalitarianism system was the opposite of Western democracy – there was no reason, freedom, dignity and personal worth.

    The leaders used terror, propaganda, censorship, and other persecution to control and persuade people.

    • Police Terror
      • Dictators of totalitarianism states used terror and violence. In normal situations, the police respond to criminals and protect citizens. In totalitarian states, the police enforce government policies through spying and intimidating citizens. They would even use brutal force or murder to achieve their goals.
    • Indoctrination
      • Totalitarian governments use indoctrination to change people’s minds. Indoctrination involves teaching citizens to glorify the leader and his policies, molding people into being unconditionally loyal. This policy started with very young children and were enforced by schools.
    • Propaganda and Censorship
      • Totalitarian states used propaganda and biased information to persuade the people. Their control over the mass media made this easy. Nothing could be published or created without permission from the state. Anyone suggesting that the information was false was severely punished for treason. Dissident individuals had to retract their work or be killed.
    • Religious or Ethnic Persecution
      • Totalitarian leaders created “enemies of the state”, fall guys incase anything happened. These groups were often religious or ethnic groups, subjected to terror and violence. Some were even forced to live in certain areas and subjected to special rules.
  • Stalin Builds a Totalitarian State

    Stalin tried to create a perfect Communist state by creating a totalitarian state. He began be crushing all his enemies.

    • Police State
      • Stalin’s secret police had tanks and armored cars to stop riots. They spied on telephone lines, read mail, planted informers. They even persuaded children to report what their parents were saying. Everyone feared the “knock on the door” in the early morning, which led to the arrest of a family member. These police arrested and killed millions of these traitors.
      • In 1934, Stalin turned against the Communist party. In 1937, the Great Purge killed anyone who was a threat to his power. Many of his old Bolshevik supporters were put on trial. When this ended in 1938, Stalin gained complete control. He killed anywhere from 8 million to 13 million deaths.
    • Russian Propaganda and Censorship
      • Stalin had control over the media. He did not allow creativity, censoring all unauthorized work. The media glorified his achievements.
      • The arts were also used for propaganda, showing heroic labor and positive initiatives.
    • Education and Indoctrination
      • The government controlled everyone’s education. Everyone had to learn the virtues of the Communist Party. Anyone who questioned them were imprisoned. Party leaders lectured workers, stressed the importance of hard work, and State-supported groups trained future party members.
    • Religious Persecution
      • Communists tried to remove religion. The League of Militant Godless was a government sponsored group of atheists who sent propaganda which attacked religion. “Museums of atheism” were setup to show how religion is superstition. However, these attempts failed and people still clung to their faith.
      • The Russian Orthodox Church was a target. Others also suffered as the police destroyed churches, synagogues, and killed religious leaders.
      • A perfect Communist state was very costly, eliminating personal rights and freedoms for the stability of the state.
  • Stalin Seizes Control of the Economy

    Stalin’s control of society increased and he began to overhaul the economy. He tried to catch up to other advanced countries in 10 years. In 1928, he created a command economy, giving the government complete control over the economy.

    • An Industrial Revolution
      • The first of the Five-Year Plans involved high quotas for steel, coal, oil, and electricity production. The government limited production of consumer goods, making people face severe shortages of food, housing, and other goods.
      • These difficult methods did produce impressive results. Though most of the targets fell short, the Soviets still made gains. The 2nd plan was launched in 1933, and was equally successful. In 10 years, industrial production of steel increased by 25 percent.
    • An Agricultural Revolution
      • In 1928, the government seized private farms and combined them into collective farms. Hundreds of families worked on these farms, producing food for the state. The modern machinery used on these government owned farms boosted food production and reduced the number of workers. Wealthy peasants resisted and were eliminated.
      • Peasants fought the government’s attempts to take over land. Many protested by killing livestock and destroying crops. Secret police moved peasants onto farms with bayonets. 5 to 10 million peasants died as a result. By 1938, 90 percent of all peasants worked on government owned farms. Russia produced twice the wheat they had before.
      • In hard to farm areas, the government created state farms which were operated like factories. Workers had wages and produced wheat.
  • Daily Life Under Stalin

    Women gained more roles, people became better educated, and drastic changes occurred. However, this came at a great price as citizens had their personal freedoms limited.

    Stalin’s economic plans created high demand for skilled workers, making education key for a better life.

    • Women Gain Rights
      • The Bolshevik revolution in 1917 made men and women equal. New laws were created and women helped the economy prosper. Women joined to workforce as a result of the Five Year plan. Children were taken care of by the state for working mothers. Some women performed the same jobs as men. However, men still had the best jobs.
      • Given the oppurtunity, women began to study science, especially medicine. By 1950, 75 percent of doctors were women.
      • They paid a heavy price as they had jobs, were responsible for housework, and child care. Soviet women were expected to provide the state with loyal citizens.
  • Total Control Achieved
    • By the 1930s, Stalin had complete control and had changed Russia into a industrial and political power. He brought a period of total control and rule by terror.
    • Soon, China also fell under Karl Marx’s influence and Mao Zedong also paved way for a totalitarian Communist state.