How many Old Bolsheviks outlived Stalin?

How many Old Bolsheviks outlived Stalin?

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The term "Old Bolshevik" refers to those who joined the Bolshevik party before the Russian Revolution of 1917. According to D. A. Chygayev (as quoted by Mark Deutsch), in 1922 there were 44,148 living Old Bolsheviks. It is known that many of these were targeted by the Great Purge of the 1930s. Some sources go far as to say that nearly all of them were prosecuted and/or executed.

However, there do seem to be exceptions. Elena Stasova, for example, was a member of the Bolsheviks from the beginning, and served on the Central Committee before and during the revolution. She was untouched by the purge, retired peacefully in 1946, and died twenty years later.

Are there any estimates of the exact number of Old Bolsheviks who, like Stasova, survived the purges (i.e., were never charged, or were charged but fully acquitted) and outlived Stalin? If not, is there at least a list of some of the more notable ones?

For "top of the pile", Wiki claims that

  1. 58% of the 1917 Party Central Committee was eliminated by 1938.
  2. 63% of the first Bolshevik government was executed by that time.
  3. Out of 267 1917-1934 Central Committee members, 34 died before 1937, 36 survived the Purge, the rest (74%) were executed.

Of course, the "rank and file" Old Bolsheviks (the definition changed in time - from joining before 1904, to joining before 1917, to having been in the party for 18+ years) suffered less than the top crust (just like in the military: 60% of Marshals executed, but fewer than half the Comandarms).

The point is that everyone who had their own opinion instead of being Stalin's puppet was killed, and those on the top are also more likely to have their own opinion.

One example:

Molotov was an old Bolshevik, and a prominent figure. He lived until 1986!

There must be some who survived through the 90's.

How can you answer a sad question like this? Maybe by the words of Alexander Barmine:

When I work on my book, I feel as though I were walking in a graveyard. All my friends and life associates have been shot. It seems to be some kind of a mistake that I am alive.

Rise of Joseph Stalin

Joseph Stalin was a Georgian-born student radical who became a member and eventually became leader of the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. He served as the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1922 until his death in 1953. In the years following the death of Vladimir Lenin, he became the dictator of the Soviet Union, by manipulating and terrorizing others in order to destroy his opponents.

After growing up in Georgia, Stalin became a political activist, conducting discreet activities for the Bolshevik Party for twelve years before the Russian Revolution in 1917. Following the October Revolution, Stalin took military positions in the Russian Civil War and the Polish-Soviet War. Stalin was one of the Bolsheviks' chief operatives in the Caucasus and grew close to leader Vladimir Lenin, who saw him as a tough character, and a loyal follower capable of getting things done behind the scenes. Stalin played a decisive role in engineering the 1921 Red Army invasion of Georgia, adopting a hardline approach to opposition. Stalin's connections helped him to gain influential positions behind the scenes in the Soviet-Russian government.

At the 11th Congress of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) in 1922, the leaders decided to expand the party's Central Committee. Due to this expansion, a secretariat became a necessity. Stalin was appointed the head of this new office on the 3rd of April. From that date until his death, Stalin's formal title was General Secretary. The office grew with Stalin's aggressive assumption of power, not the other way around. After a brief disappointment of not being given a prestigious ministerial post, Stalin soon learned how to use his new office in order to gain advantages towards other key persons within the Communist Party. He prepared the agenda for the Politburo meetings, directing the course of meetings. As General Secretary, he appointed new local party leaders, establishing a patronage network of people loyal to him. [1]

Only a few weeks after his appointment, Lenin was forced into semi-retirement because of a stroke. Lenin never fully recovered and died in January 1924. He spent most of his remaining life resting in a countryside Dacha. But he received messages and political visitors, and between the autumn of 1922 and spring of 1923, he resumed his party leadership in Moscow. As late as in October 1922, Lenin expressed his "unreserved support" for Stalin as General Secretary and for his work with a new constitution. (Adopted in December 1924, it shaped the Soviet Union.) But soon thereafter, and having learned that a number of matters related to brutality, abuse of power and rising internal party struggles had occurred during his absence, Lenin's faith in Stalin faded. Lenin was disturbed by a report on violent atrocities committed in Georgia, reported by the head of the security police OGPU, Felix Dzerzhinsky. He attributed the atrocities to Sergo Ordzhonikidze and associated people. Neither did Lenin approve of Dzerzhinsky, who expressed his support of Stalin, whilst reporting on Georgia to Lenin. [2] Further, Stalin had been very unpleasant with Lenin's wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya on the telephone. Stalin had threatened to have her prosecuted for having disturbed Lenin with political matters during his recovery. [3]

All of this caused a growing suspicion on Stalin. In December 1922 and early January 1923, Lenin dictated a political will. Historian Isaac Deutscher, who first published reports in 1949 of the terrorism conducted by Stalin, described Lenin's will by the following: "The whole testament breathed uncertainty". It contains some hard criticism on Stalin, but sharply criticizes Leon Trotsky Lenin primarily expressed a fear of a future fragmentation of the party. [4]

After Lenin's death, a struggle for power in the party broke out in the open. Stalin, through his office as General Secretary, took advantage of his knowledge of the existing antagonisms among the Bolshevik Party's leaders. Many were members of the Party's supreme organ, the Politburo, but rivalries extended beyond that. Several People's Commissars (or Ministers in other countries) were involved in the Party's internal personal as well as political struggles. Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev represented the intellectual "left wing," whilst Nikolai Bukharin, Mikhail Tomsky and Alexei Rykov represented the trade unionist "right wing". But the most prominent Bolshevik after Lenin's death was Leon Trotsky, who led a group of his own. None of these persons would survive Stalin all died of suspected assassinations. [5]

Soon after Lenin's death, Stalin joined Zinoviev and Kamenev in a Politburo Triumvirate. By 1924 they were united in wanting to get rid of the troublesome Trotsky. But this was no easy task. Trotsky had developed the Red Army and had played a huge role during the October Revolution. He was intellectually and oratorically superior to Stalin. Stalin used Zinoviev and Kamenev to combat Trotsky, while appearing as "The Golden Centre Man". There are multiple theories on the hostility between Stalin and Trotsky, and when it began. But a huge political divider became Stalin's idea of "Socialism in One Country" vs Trotsky's "Permanent Revolution". Stalin's idea, in the mid-1920s, was actually revolutionary in itself. The entire Bolshevik concept had been to begin at home, in Russia, and then "export" the revolution to the West. By 1925 it had become apparent that all revolutionary movements in Germany and elsewhere had failed. In Italy even a counter-socialistic movement, Fascism, had come to power. From these perspectives, suddenly few Bolsheviks saw Stalin's idea as sound when compared to Trotsky's. [6] Trotsky was first removed as Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs (January 1925), removed from the Politburo (October 1926), removed from the Central Committee (October 1927), expelled from the Communist Party (November 1927), exiled to Alma–Ata in Kazakhstan (January 1928), and exiled from the Soviet Union (February 1929).

But Stalin had canceled the cooperation with Zinoviev and Kamenev a long time before Trotsky's final decline. He slowly but steadily desired to get rid of his two former Triumvirate-companions. During this phase, Stalin instead joined forces with the "right" of the Bolshevik Party. Together with Bukharin, Tomsky and Rykov, Stalin could now rather easily send Zinoviev and Kamenev to Gulag (thus far just briefly), and by 1929 also Bukharin, Tomsky and Rykov found themselves played by Stalin. All struggles for power were over. Stalin was now the autocratic ruler of the entire Soviet Union. Millions of Russians and people of other ethnic origin inside the Soviet Union had been killed during the Russian Civil War, through starvation and in other conflicts, but the bloodbath had thus far not reached within the Bolshevik Party.

The rise of Stalin

Today, we know Joseph Stalin as a ruthless dictator who ruled the Soviet Union from the late 1920s until his death in 1953. In the first years of the Bolshevik regime, however, few thought of Stalin as a potential leader. The rise of Stalin was as clever and manipulative as it was unexpected.

Stalin’s background

The contrasts between Stalin and his predecessor, Vladimir Lenin, were significant. Lenin was a product of the middle-class. He was well-educated, an intellectual who worked extensively, spoke fluently and wrote enormous volumes.

Stalin, in contrast, was a crude Georgian of peasant stock. He was short but physically strong, his face scarred by a bout of childhood smallpox. He spoke bluntly, often coarsely and could be dominating or overbearing.

Though a good student in his youth, Stalin was not an articulate speech maker and was not particularly worldly (according to one contemporary, for many years Stalin believed Holland and the Netherlands were different countries).

Attitudes and values

In his youth, Stalin trained for the priesthood. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, he had a chauvinistic disregard for women and a strong racial hatred of Russia’s Jews. This anti-Semitism, combined with competition for position in the Bolshevik party, contributed to Stalin’s intense dislike for Leon Trotsky (the pair loathed each other from their first meeting).

Stalin was a minor player in the Bolsheviks until the 1920s. Prior to World War I, he organised and conducted robberies to fund the party’s activities. He orchestrated and supervised a 1907 bank robbery in Tiflis that killed 40 people and netted the Bolsheviks more than 340,000 rubles.

Prior to 1917, Stalin was also involved in inciting strikes and protests, gang violence, running protection rackets and possibly arson and sabotage attacks on government buildings.

February Revolution

At the time of the February Revolution, Stalin was co-editor of Pravdaand one of the higher-ranking Bolsheviks in Russia (though only by default, since a dozen other higher-ranked Bolsheviks were in exile.

Stalin’s initial response was to write and publish articles that called on the Bolsheviks to support for the Provisional Government. He maintained this position until the return of Lenin in April 1917.

Through the course of 1917, Stalin’s position within the party began to rise, chiefly because of his work for Lenin. He assisted Lenin’s flight to Finland after the failed July Days uprising and for a time served as the nominal Bolshevik leader within Russia. Stalin earned Lenin’s trust by carrying out instructions reliably, effectively and discretely.

General secretary

In 1922, Stalin was appointed as the party’s general secretary. This was a seemingly minor position but one that allowed him to oversee and manipulate party appointments.

Stalin used this office to build personal support. He filled the Orgburo and key leadership positions with friends and acolytes, while working behind the scenes to forge alliances within the Politburo itself.

Lenin, by now desperately unwell, effectively housebound and participating less in government, became suspicious of Stalin. The Bolshevik leader became critical of Stalin’s personal qualities (a view famously expressed in his political testament). Aware of Lenin’s high position in the party, Stalin publicly affirmed his obedience and loyalty, while working behind the scenes to isolate the Bolshevik leader.

Assumption of power

In mid-1922, Stalin formed a troika (three-person leadership group) with fellow Bolsheviks Lev Kamenev and Grigory Zinoviev. One of the functions of the troika was to marginalise Stalin’s arch-rival, Trotsky.

On Lenin’s death, Stalin took a leading role at public commemorations, organised Lenin’s funeral and ordered his body be embalmed and placed on public display (against Lenin’s personal wishes).

By 1925, Stalin had acquired enough power to dissolve the troika and move against Kamenev and Zinoviev. Both formed an opposition against Stalin and his supporters but were

Brutal leadership

The rise of Stalin ushered in the bloodiest period in Russia’s history. The Georgian dictator ruled the Soviet Union for more than 25 years, a period marked by war, class war, rapid industrialisation, the collectivisation of farms and deadly famines. These events led to the death of as many as 20 million people.

Stalin’s rule is widely known for its political repression, its purges of potential rivals and brutal treatment of civilians. Stalin was notoriously paranoid and thousands suspected of threatening his power were eliminated. People, groups, even entire populations that stood in the way of his economic program were targeted.

Whether Stalin and his brutality were deviations from Lenin’s example, or continuations of it, is a hotly disputed question among historians of Russia.


Stalin was born on December 18, 1878 in Gori, Georgia to a family of limited financial means. [1] He was the fourth child born to the family of Ekaterina Gheladze and Vissarion Djugashvili the prior three children of the couple had died at an early age. [2] Stalin later became politically active and, during the Russian Revolution of 1905, organized and armed Bolshevik militias across Georgia, running protection rackets and waging guerrilla warfare. After meeting Lenin at a Bolshevik conference in 1906 and marrying Ekaterina Svanidze, with whom he had a son Yakov, Stalin temporarily resigned from the party over its ban on bank robberies. Embarking on an effort to organize Muslim Azeri and Persian partisans in the Caucasus, Stalin conducted protection rackets, ransom kidnappings, counterfeiting operations and robberies, until arrest and exile in 1908.

Between 1908 and 1917, Stalin was arrested seven times and escaped five times, enjoying less than two years of liberty in the nine-year period. [3]

Supporting revolution and saving Lenin Edit

In the wake of the February Revolution of 1917 (the first phase of the Russian Revolution of 1917), Stalin was released from exile. On March 25 he returned to Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) with just a typewriter and a wicker suitcase, wearing a suit he had on in 1913 when he was arrested. [4] On March 28, together with Lev Kamenev and Matvei Muranov Stalin ousted Vyacheslav Molotov and Alexander Shlyapnikov as editors of Pravda, the official Bolshevik newspaper, while Lenin and much of the Bolshevik leadership were still in exile. Stalin and the new editorial board took a position in favor of the Provisional Government (Molotov and Shlyapnikov had wanted to overthrow it) and went to the extent of declining to publish Lenin's 'letters from afar' arguing for the provisional government to be overthrown. He described them as "Unsatisfactory. a sketch with no facts." [5]

For a week from March 12, Stalin stopped writing articles, this may have been when he switched to Lenin's position. [6] However, after Lenin prevailed at the April Party conference, Stalin and the rest of the Pravda staff came on board with Lenin's view and called for overthrowing the provisional government. At this April 1917 Party conference, Stalin was elected to the Bolshevik Central Committee with 97 votes in the party, the third highest after Zinoviev and Lenin. [7] These three plus Kamenev formed the Central Committee's Bureau. Stalin would share a flat with Molotov where he apologised: "You were the nearest of all to Lenin in the initial stage in April." [8]

On June 24, Stalin threatened to resign when Lenin turned against the idea of an armed demonstration when the Soviets refused to support it. It went ahead anyway on July 1 and was a Bolshevik triumph. [9]

In mid-July, armed mobs led by Bolshevik militants took to the streets of Petrograd, killing army officers and who were considered bourgeois civilians. Sailors from Kronstadt phoned Stalin asking if an armed uprising was feasible. He said: "Rifles? You comrades know best." This was enough encouragement for them. [10] They demanded the overthrow of the government, but neither the Bolshevik leadership nor the Petrograd Soviet was willing to take power, having been totally surprised by this unplanned revolt. After the disappointed mobs dispersed, Kerensky's government struck back at the Bolsheviks. Loyalist troops raided Pravda on July 18 and surrounded the Bolshevik headquarters. Stalin helped Lenin evade capture minutes before and, to avoid a bloodbath, ordered the besieged Bolsheviks in the Peter and Paul Fortress to surrender. [11]

Stalin put Lenin in five different hiding places, the last being the Alliluyev family apartment. Convinced Lenin would be killed if caught, Stalin persuaded him not to surrender and smuggled him to Finland [ dubious – discuss ] . He shaved off Lenin's beard and moustache, took him to Primorsky station then to a shack north of Petrograd, then to a barn in Finland. [12] In Lenin's absence, Stalin assumed leadership of the Bolsheviks [ dubious – discuss ] . At the Sixth Congress of the Bolshevik party, held secretly in Petrograd, Stalin gave the main report, was chosen to be the chief editor of the Party press and a member of the Constituent Assembly, and was re-elected to the Central Committee. [11]

Coup of General Lavr Kornilov in August 1917 Edit

In September [O.S. August] 1917, Kerensky suspected his newly appointed Commander-in-Chief, General Lavr Kornilov, of planning a coup and dismissed him (10 September [O.S. 27 August] 1917). Believing that Kerensky had acted under Bolshevik pressure, Kornilov decided to march his troops on Petrograd. In desperation, Kerensky turned to the Petrograd Soviet for help and released the Bolsheviks, who raised a small army to defend the capital. In the end, Kerensky convinced Kornilov's army to stand down and to disband without violence.

October Revolution Edit

The Bolsheviks now found themselves free, rearmed, swelling with new recruits and under Stalin's firm control, whilst Kerensky had few troops loyal to him in the capital. Lenin decided that the time for a coup had arrived. Kamenev and Zinoviev proposed a coalition with the Mensheviks, but Stalin and Trotsky backed Lenin's wish for an exclusively Bolshevik government. [ citation needed ] Lenin returned to Petrograd in October. On October 23, the Central Committee voted 10-2 in favor of an insurrection Kamenev and Zinoviev voted in opposition. [11]

On the morning of 6 November [O.S. 25 October] 1917 Kerensky's troops raided Stalin's press headquarters and smashed his printing presses. While he worked to restore his presses, Stalin missed a Central Committee meeting where assignments for the coup were being issued. Stalin instead spent the afternoon briefing Bolshevik delegates and passing communications to and from Lenin, who was in hiding. [11]

Early the next day, Stalin went to the Smolny Institute from where he, Lenin and the rest of the Central Committee coordinated the coup. Kerensky left the capital to rally the Imperial troops at the German front. By 8 November [O.S. 27 October] 1917, the Bolsheviks had "stormed" the Winter Palace and arrested most of the members of Kerensky's cabinet.

On 7 November (O.S. 26 October) 1917, Lenin officially proclaimed the existence of the new Bolshevik government, [13] which became known as "Sovnarkom". [14] Stalin was not yet well known to the Russian public, but was included on a list of new People's Commissars—effectively government ministers—under the name of "J. V. Djugashvili-Stalin". [13] Stalin moved into the Smolny Institute, where Sovnarkom was then based. [15] It was probably Lenin who had proposed Stalin for the position of People's Commissar of Nationalities, and while Stalin had initially turned down the post, he ultimately relented. [16] He and Yakov Sverdlov were also tasked with ensuring that Petrograd was defended from Kerensky's Cossack forces which had rallied in the Pulkovo Heights. [15]

During the first few months of the new government, Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky formed what the historian Simon Sebag Montefiore described as an "inseparable troika". [15] Lenin recognised both Stalin and Trotsky as "men of action" who stood out in this regard from many of the other senior Bolsheviks. [15] On 29 November, the Bolshevik Central Committee established a four-man Chetverka to lead the country it consisted of Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, and Sverdlov. [17]

On 7 December, Lenin's government formed the Cheka, a political police force. [18] On 27 October, they banned opposition press. [17] Stalin supported the use of terror from the beginning [18] in response to a message from Estonian Bolsheviks suggesting how they could deal with opponents, he stated that "the idea of a concentration camp is excellent". [18]

Upon seizing Petrograd, the Bolsheviks formed the new revolutionary authority, the Council of People's Commissars. Stalin was appointed People's Commissar for Nationalities' Affairs his job was to establish an institution to win over non-Russian citizens of the former Russian Empire. He was relieved of his post as editor of Pravda so that he could devote himself fully to his new role. [19]

In March 1918, the Menshevik leader Julius Martov published an article exposing Bolshevik crimes committed before the revolution. Martov wrote that Stalin had organized bank robberies and had been expelled from his own party for doing so (the latter part is untrue). Stalin sued Martov for libel and won.

After seizing Petrograd, civil war broke out in Russia, pitting Lenin's Red Army against the White Army, a loose alliance of anti-Bolshevik forces. Lenin formed an eight-member Politburo which included Stalin and Trotsky. During this time, only Stalin and Trotsky were allowed to see Lenin without an appointment.

In May 1918, Lenin dispatched Stalin to the city of Tsaritsyn (later known as Stalingrad, now Volgograd). Situated on the Lower Volga, it was a key supply route to the oil and grain of the North Caucasus. There was a critical shortage of food in Russia, and Stalin was assigned to procure any he could find according to Prodrazvyorstka policy. The city was also in danger of falling to the White Army. He opposed the “military specialists”— former Tsarist professional military officers— and formed the "Tsaritsyn group," a loose group of like-minded Bolshevik military leaders and party members personally loyal to Stalin. In doing so, he first met and befriended Kliment Voroshilov and Semyon Budyonny, both of whom would become two of Stalin's key supporters in the military. Through his new allies, he imposed his influence on the military in July Lenin granted his request for official control over military operations in the region to fight the Battle for Tsaritsyn. [19]

Stalin challenged many of the decisions of Trotsky, who at this time was Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic and thus his military superior. He ordered the killings of many former Tsarist officers in the Red Army Trotsky, in agreement with the Central Committee, had hired them for their expertise, but Stalin distrusted them, seizing documents which showed many were agents for the White Army. [20] This created friction between Stalin and Trotsky. Stalin even wrote to Lenin asking that Trotsky be relieved of his post. [19]

Stalin ordered the executions of any suspected counter-revolutionaries. [21] In the countryside, he burned villages to intimidate the peasantry into submission and discourage bandit raids on food shipments. [19]

In May 1919, Stalin was dispatched to the Western Front, near Petrograd. To stem mass desertions and defections of Red Army soldiers, Stalin had deserters and renegades rounded up and publicly executed as traitors. [19]

After the Bolsheviks turned the tide and were winning the civil war in late 1919, Lenin and many others wanted to expand the revolution westwards into Europe, starting with Poland, which was fighting the Red Army in Byelorussia and Ukraine. Stalin, in Ukraine at the time, argued these ambitions were unrealistic but lost. He was briefly transferred to the Caucasus in February 1920, but managed to get transferred back to Ukraine in May where he accepted the position of the Comissar of the South-West Front (commander Alexander Yegorov). [19] [22]

In late July 1920, Yegorov moved against the then-Polish city of Lwów, which conflicted with the general strategy set by Lenin and Trotsky by drawing his troops further away from the forces advancing on Warsaw. In mid-August, the Commander-in-Chief Sergei Kamenev ordered the transfer of troops (1st Cavalry Army, commanded by Semyon Budyonny and Kliment Voroshilov) from Yegorov's forces to reinforce the attack on Warsaw led by Mikhail Tukhachevsky. Stalin refused to counter-sign the order because it did not have the requisite two signatures on it, a reasonable response. [19] In the end, the battles for both Lwów and Warsaw were lost, and Stalin's actions were held partly to blame.

Richard Pipes suggested Lenin was more to blame, for ordering Soviet troops south to spread the revolution to Romania, and north to secure the Polish corridor for Germany (this would win over German nationalists). Both these diversions weakened the Soviet assault. Much blame must be laid on the overall commander, Sergei Kamenev, for permitting insubordination from both front commanders and conflicting and ever-changing strategic orders during the critical phase in the attack on Warsaw.

Stalin returned to Moscow in August 1920, where he defended himself before the Politburo by attacking the whole campaign strategy. Although this tactic worked, he nonetheless resigned his military commission, something he had repeatedly threatened to do when he didn't get his way. [19] At the Ninth Party Conference on September 22, Trotsky openly criticized Stalin's war record. Stalin was accused of insubordination, personal ambition, military incompetence and seeking to build his own reputation by victories on his own front at the expense of operations elsewhere. Neither he nor anybody else challenged these attacks he only briefly reaffirmed his position that the war itself was a mistake, something which everybody agreed on by this point. [19]

The Stalin era (1928–53)

Stalin, a Georgian, surprisingly turned to “Great Russian” nationalism to strengthen the Soviet regime. During the 1930s and ’40s he promoted certain aspects of Russian history, some Russian national and cultural heroes, and the Russian language, and he held the Russians up as the elder brother for the non-Slavs to emulate. Industrialization developed first and foremost in Russia. Collectivization, though, met with considerable resistance in rural areas. Ukraine in particular suffered harshly at Stalin’s hands because of forced collectivization. He encountered strenuous resistance there, for which he never forgave the Ukrainians. His policies thereafter brought widespread starvation to that republic, especially in 1932–33, when possibly millions may have died. Nevertheless, many party officials from Ukraine came to Moscow to make their careers, among them Nikita S. Khrushchev, who would succeed Stalin. The armed forces were dominated by Russians and Ukrainians, but the upper echelons of the Communist Party did not contain as many Ukrainians as might have been expected, given the size of that republic. The political police, on the other hand, had many non-Russians at the top, especially Georgians and Armenians.

Russian industry expanded rapidly under Stalin, with Ukrainian in second place. The industrialization of the Caucasus and Central Asia began during the 1930s, and it was the Russians, aided by the Ukrainians, who ran the factories. The labour force was also predominantly Russian, as was the emerging technical intelligentsia. Stalin’s nationality policy promoted native cadres and cultures, but this changed in the late 1920s. Stalin appears to have perceived that the non-Russians were becoming dangerously self-confident and self-assertive, and he reversed his nationality policy. He came to the conclusion that a Sovietized Russian elite would be more effective as an instrument of modernization. In the non-Russian republics, Russians and Ukrainians were normally second secretaries of the Communist Party and occupied key posts in the government and political police. Diplomats were predominantly Russian. The Soviet constitution of 1936 was democratic—but only on paper. It rearranged the political and nationality map. The boundaries of many autonomous republics and oblasts were fashioned in such a way as to prevent non-Russians from forming a critical mass. Moscow’s fear was that they would circumvent central authority. For example, Tatars found themselves in the Tatar ( Tatarstan) and Bashkir (Bashkiriya) autonomous republics, although Tatars and Bashkirs spoke essentially the same language. Tatars also inhabited the region south of Bashkiriya and northern Kazakhstan, but this was not acknowledged, and no autonomous republic was established. Moscow played off the various nationalities to its own advantage. This policy was to have disastrous long-term consequences for Russians, because they were seen as imperialists bent on Russifying the locals. New industry usually attracted Russian and Ukrainian labour rather than the locals, and this changed the demographic pattern of the U.S.S.R. Russians spread throughout the union, and by 1991 there were 25 million living outside the Russian republic, including 11 million in Ukraine. Russians and Ukrainians made up more than half the population of Kazakhstan in 1991. Almost half the population of the capital of Kyrgyzstan and more than a third of the population of Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, were Russian at the time the union ended in 1991.

The German invasion in June 1941 resulted in much of Ukraine being overrun. Many Ukrainians welcomed the Wehrmacht (German armed forces). Stalin was already displeased with the Ukrainians, and this reinforced his feelings. (In his victory toast after the war, he drank to the Russian triumph over the Germans.) This was in line with Stalin’s wartime policies, through which he rehabilitated the Russian Orthodox Church while identifying himself personally with previous Russian leaders such as the medieval prince Dmitri Donskoy and the tsars Ivan IV (the Terrible) and Peter I (the Great).

The Russians, however, suffered as much as anyone else during the purges and repression that characterized Stalin’s reign. Stalin vandalized Russian cultural monuments and destroyed many fine examples of Russian architecture. He was personally responsible for the destruction of some of Moscow’s finest cathedrals. It was as if Stalin were trying to expunge Russia’s past and build a new Russia in his own image. This was ironic given that Stalin spoke Russian with a Georgian accent.

Victory over Germany precipitated an upsurge of Russian national pride. Russia, in the guise of the U.S.S.R., had become a great power and by the 1970s was one of two world superpowers. The advent of the Cold War in the 1940s led to Stalin tightening his grip on his sphere of influence in eastern and southeastern Europe. Russian was imposed as the main foreign language, and Russian economic experience was copied. This was effected by having Russian and other communist officials in ministries. A dense network of treaties enmeshed the region in the Russian web. War reparations went first and foremost to Russian factories. Paradoxically, when the United Nations was first set up, in 1945, Stalin did not insist that Russia have a separate seat like the Ukrainian and Belorussian republics had, a move that suggests he regarded the U.S.S.R.’s seat as Russia’s.

The Bolsheviks had always been mindful of minorities on their frontiers, and the first deportation of non-Russian minorities to Siberia and Central Asia began in the 1920s. Russian Cossacks also were removed forcibly from their home areas in the north Caucasus and elsewhere because of their opposition to collectivization and communist rule. On security grounds, Stalin deported some entire small nationality groups, many with their own territorial base, such as the Chechen and Ingush, from 1944 onward. They were accused of collaborating with the Germans. The Volga Germans were deported in the autumn of 1941 lest they side with the advancing Wehrmacht. Altogether, more than 50 nationalities, embracing about 3.5 million people, were deported to various parts of the U.S.S.R. The vast majority of these were removed from European Russia to Asiatic Russia. Nearly 50 years later, Pres. Boris Yeltsin apologized for these deportations, identifying them as a major source of interethnic conflict in Russia.

The late Stalin period witnessed campaigns against Jews and non-Russians. Writers and artists who dared to claim that Russian writers and cultural figures of the past had learned from the West were pilloried. Russian chauvinism took over, and anything that was worth inventing was claimed to have been invented by a Russian.


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Bolshevik, (Russian: “One of the Majority”) , plural Bolsheviks, or Bolsheviki, member of a wing of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party, which, led by Vladimir Lenin, seized control of the government in Russia (October 1917) and became the dominant political power. The group originated at the party’s second congress (1903) when Lenin’s followers, insisting that party membership be restricted to professional revolutionaries, won a temporary majority on the party’s central committee and on the editorial board of its newspaper Iskra. They assumed the name Bolsheviks and dubbed their opponents the Mensheviks (“Those of the Minority”).

Although both factions participated together in the Russian Revolution of 1905 and went through periods of apparent reconciliation (about 1906 and 1910), their differences increased. The Bolsheviks continued to insist upon a highly centralized, disciplined, professional party. They boycotted the elections to the First State Duma (Russian parliament) in 1906 and refused to cooperate with the government and other political parties in subsequent Dumas. Furthermore, their methods of obtaining revenue (including robbery) were disapproved of by the Mensheviks and non-Russian Social Democrats.

In 1912 Lenin, leading a very small minority, formed a distinct Bolshevik organization, decisively (although not formally) splitting the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party. His determination to keep his own faction strictly organized, however, had also alienated many of his Bolshevik colleagues, who had wished to undertake nonrevolutionary activities or who had disagreed with Lenin on political tactics and on the infallibility of orthodox Marxism. No outstanding Russian Social Democrats joined Lenin in 1912.

Nevertheless, the Bolsheviks became increasingly popular among urban workers and soldiers in Russia after the February Revolution (1917), particularly after April, when Lenin returned to the country, demanding immediate peace and that the workers’ councils, or Soviets, assume power. By October the Bolsheviks had majorities in the Petrograd (St. Petersburg) and Moscow Soviets and when they overthrew the Provisional Government, the second Congress of Soviets (devoid of peasant deputies) approved the action and formally took control of the government.

Immediately after the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks refused to share power with other revolutionary groups, with the exception of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries eventually they suppressed all rival political organizations. They changed their name to Russian Communist Party (of Bolsheviks) in March 1918 to All-Union Communist Party (of Bolsheviks) in December 1925 and to Communist Party of the Soviet Union in October 1952.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Michael Ray, Editor.

How many Old Bolsheviks outlived Stalin? - History

Interesting theory, but WRT Stalin's fleet expansion plan the project was entirely defensive in nature. One can make a fairly convincing argument that Stalin was essentially reimplementing the Czarist coastal defense policy that had been followed essentially since Peter the Great.

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There's a difference between "Left Communism" and "Left Bolshevisim." Left Communism was, indeed, called an infantile disorder by Lenin - but this was a very different breed of communist than anyone amongst the Bolsheviks. Generally it was utopian in some regard and discouraged the use of a revolutionary party, instead relying on people to spontaneously rise up when the time was correct.

The Left Bolsheviks - or more properly, the Joint Opposition - wanted a number of different things ranging from collectivization (which was later implemented in a different manner than they had wanted, but implemented nonetheless), industrialization (same), and a repeal of measures that were put in to place for the sake of the civil war, now over.

There were, of course, ideological differences that led to the distinction. Though there were several strains of the Opposition, Trotsky is generally remembered now as the most important. His summation was largely that the revolution was still burning and revolutionaries needed to be supported in revolutions everywhere they could - China, Spain, and Germany being notable examples.

Stalin's conception was that of the Third Period, which relied much more heavily in reinforcing the Comintern. So while Trotskyists were in the streets of Berlin fighting the fascists, the Stalinists were trying to consolidate their power and bring matters to a head - going so far as to electorally support the fascists in the Prussian Red Referendum as being less fascist than the "social-fascists" who were reds not associated with the Comintern. In China, the Trotskyists encouraged the Chinese to overthrow Kang Chi Shek and begin the revolution Stalin encouraged the communists to stay under the control of the Kuomintang and their questionable revolutionary credentials. In Spain, the Trotskyists weren't much of a power but generally supported the POUM, Basque workers, and others that had broken down the bourgeois systems of power and spread revolution, the Stalinists called in the POUM from the front lines had had them punished.

The ideas being important in that the Trotskyists saw the world in revolution analogous to the Russian revolution. Fascism was an extension of liberal power in collapse - destroy capitalism - destroy fascism. The Stalinists were more concerned with consolidation of their power in thinking that the final big push was going to come up.

I realize that these are simplifications - but they're here for what its worth anyway.

Alis Volat Propriis Tiocfaidh ár lá Proletarier Aller Länder, Vereinigt Euch!

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So you decide to put a deranged lunatic in charge to kill all the "deranged lunatics"?

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Revolutionaries are often educated, sometimes coming from professional/middle class backgrounds. Many are generally intelligent and spent an extensive amount of time studying Marxism, philosophy, economics, etc. So I would say that revolutionaries are born out of their knowledge of capitalism more than anything else. The revolutionary not only commits his body to the struggle, but his mind.

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Re: The Purging of the Old Bolsheviks �

It is not the present bureaucracy which ensured the victory of the October Revolution, but the working and peasant masses under Bolshevik leadership. The bureaucracy began to grow only after the definitive victory, swelling its ranks not only with revolutionary workers but also with representatives of other classes (former czarist functionaries, officers, bourgeois intellectuals, etc.). The present bureaucracy, in its overwhelming majority, was, at the time of the October Revolution, in the bourgeois camp (take as examples merely the Soviet ambassadors Potemkin, Maisky, Troyanovsky, Surits, Khinchuk, etc.). Those of the present bureaucracy who in the October days were in the Bolshevik camp in the great majority of cases played no role even slightly important in either the preparation or the conduct of the revolution, or in the first years following it. This applies above all to Stalin himself. As for the present young bureaucrats, they are chosen and educated by the older ones, most often from among their own children. And it is Stalin who has become the “chief” of this new caste which has grown up after the revolution.

. It emerges from the movement of the masses in the first period, the heroic period. But having risen above the masses, and then having resolved its own “social question” (an assured existence, influence, respect, etc.), the bureaucracy tends increasingly to keep the masses immobile. Why take risks? It has something to lose. The supreme expansion of the influence and well-being of the reformist bureaucracy takes place in an epoch of capitalist progress and of relative passivity of the working masses. But when this passivity is broken, on the right or on the left, the magnificence of the bureaucracy comes to an end. Its intelligence and skill are transformed into stupidity and impotence. The nature of the “leadership” corresponds to the nature of the class (or of the caste) it leads and to the objective situation through which this class (or caste) is passing.

. The genuine revolutionary proletarians in the USSR drew their strength not from the apparatus but from the activity of the revolutionary masses. In particular, the Red Army was created not by “men of the apparatus” (in the most critical years the apparatus was still very weak), but by the cadres of heroic workers who, under Bolshevik leadership, gathered around them the young peasants and led them into battle. The decline of the revolutionary movement, the weariness, the defeats in Europe and in Asia, the disappointment of the working masses, were inevitably and directly to weaken the positions of the internationalist-revolutionaries and, on the other hand, were to strengthen the positions of the national and conservative bureaucracy. A new chapter opens in the revolution. The leaders of the preceding period go into opposition while the conservative politicians of the apparatus, who had played a secondary role in the revolution, emerge with the triumphant bureaucracy, in the forefront.

I am naive but while I try to keep an open mind beyond what would be accepted in the west, I'm not yet persuaded of the intelligence and necessity of certain policy decisions as incredibly sound in every circumstance. At the same time I don't think of Stalin as an anticommunist but he doesn't seem significant in the revolutionary part of Russian history and it seems there is a lot of opportunism during the purge motivating peoples shit talking and accusations. It seems a very peculiar time that a simple explanation for many things do not exist.
I worry that there is a heuristic if such brutality as rational and necessary in the desperate times but I currently have a heuristic of my being the Thermidorian reaction which reinstated much which previously existed.

To which there seems a question of how much change one believes can actually come of a revolution once it moves from dreams to actuality. As much of the return to explicitly old ways under the Tsardom seems to be to undo a lot of the revolution itself and loses the very spirit which inspires a revolution, suppresses it and keeps things back in line.


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Stalinism, the method of rule, or policies, of Joseph Stalin, Soviet Communist Party and state leader from 1929 until his death in 1953. Stalinism is associated with a regime of terror and totalitarian rule.

In a party dominated by intellectuals and rhetoricians, Stalin stood for a practical approach to revolution, devoid of ideological sentiment. Once power was in Bolshevik hands, the party leadership gladly left to Stalin tasks involving the dry details of party and state administration. In the power struggle that followed Vladimir Lenin’s death in 1924, the intellectual sophistication and charismatic appeal of Stalin’s rivals proved no match for the actual power he had consolidated from positions of direct control of the party machinery. By 1929 his major opponents were defeated and Stalinist policies, which had undergone several shifts during the power struggle, became stabilized. Stalin’s doctrine of the monolithic party emerged during the battle for power he condemned the “rotten liberalism” of those who tolerated discussion on or dissent from party policies. Lenin’s pronouncements, except those uncomplimentary to Stalin, were codified as axioms not open to question. Persons opposed to these new dogmas were accused of treason to the party. What came to be called the “cult of personality” developed as Stalin, presenting himself as Lenin’s heir, came to be recognized as the sole infallible interpreter of party ideology.

Basic to Stalinism was the doctrine of “ socialism in one country,” which held that, though the socialist goal of world proletarian revolution was not to be abandoned, a viable classless society could be built within Soviet boundaries and despite encirclement by a largely capitalist world. Stalin, appealing both to socialist revolutionary fervour and to Russian nationalism, launched in the late 1920s a program of rapid industrial development of unprecedented magnitude. A “class war” was declared on the rich farmers in the name of the poor, and Russian agriculture was rapidly collectivized, against considerable rural resistance, to meet the needs of urban industry. The need for expertise and efficiency in industry postponed the egalitarian goals of the Bolshevik Revolution Stalin denounced “levelers” and instituted systems of reward that established a socioeconomic stratification favouring the technical intelligentsia. Heavy industry was emphasized to ensure Russia’s future economic independence from its capitalist neighbours.

While socialist ideology foresaw a “withering away” of the state as the classless society became a reality, Stalin asserted that the state must instead become stronger before it could be eliminated. Stalinism held that the enemies of socialism within and without Russia would try to avert the final victory of the Revolution. To face these efforts and protect the cause, it was argued, the state must be strong. Power became more and more centralized in Stalin, who in the late 1930s launched a bloody purge of all those he regarded as even potentially dangerous to the Soviet state. As part of the struggle against those whom he considered political rivals, Stalin identified political opposition with treason and used this as a weapon in his struggle against Leon Trotsky and Nikolay I. Bukharin and their supporters. By February 1939 most of the “Old Bolsheviks,” those revolutionaries who in 1917 had begun the Revolution, had been exterminated. Millions more (estimated at from 7 million to 15 million) were sent to the forced-labour camps that Stalin made an integral part of the Soviet economy.

Three years after Stalin’s death in 1953, Soviet leaders led by Nikita Khrushchev denounced the cult of Stalin and the terrorism perpetrated by his regime they saw Stalinism as a temporary aberration in Soviet socialist development. Others saw it as a brutal but necessary and inevitable phase of that development. Still others saw in Stalinism an irrevocable Soviet break with the ideals of the Revolution.

In 1989 the Soviet historian Roy Medvedev estimated that about 20 million died as a result of the labour camps, forced collectivization, famine, and executions. Another 20 million were victims of imprisonment, exile, and forced relocation.

The Death of Lenin and the Rise of Stalin

Following Lenin’s third stroke, a troika made up of Grigory Zinoviev of the Ukrainian SSR, Lev Kamenev of the Russian SFSR, and Joseph Stalin of the Transcaucasian SFSR emerged to take day-to-day leadership of the party and the country and block Trotsky from taking power. Lenin, however, became increasingly anxious about Stalin and following his December 1922 stroke, dictated a letter (known as Lenin’s Testament) to the party criticizing him and urging his removal as general secretary, a position which was becoming the most powerful in the party. Stalin was aware of Lenin’s Testament and acted to keep Lenin in isolation for health reasons and increase his control over the party apparatus.

Lenin and Stalin (1922): Toward the end of his life, Lenin became increasingly anxious about Stalin and began criticizing him and urging his removal as general secretary. Despite these misgivings, Stalin eventually replaced Lenin as the leader of the USSR.

Zinoviev and Bukharin became concerned about Stalin’s increasing power and proposed that the Orgburo which Stalin headed be abolished and Zinoviev and Trotsky be added to the party secretariat, thus diminishing Stalin’s role as general secretary. Stalin reacted furiously and the Orgburo was retained, but Bukharin, Trotsky, and Zinoviev were added to the body.

On April 3, 1922, Stalin was named the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Lenin had appointed Stalin the head of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspectorate, which gave Stalin considerable power. By gradually consolidating his influence and isolating and outmaneuvering his rivals within the party, Stalin became the undisputed leader of the Soviet Union and, by the end of the 1920s, established totalitarian rule.

Lenin died in January 1924 and in May his Testament was read aloud at the Central Committee, but Zinoviev and Kamenev argued that Lenin’s objections had proven groundless and that Stalin should remain General Secretary. The Central Committee decided not to publish the testament.

In October 1927, Grigory Zinoviev and Leon Trotsky were expelled from the Central Committee and forced into exile.

In 1928, Stalin introduced the First Five-Year Plan for building a socialist economy. In place of the internationalism expressed by Lenin throughout the Revolution, it aimed to build Socialism in One Country. In industry, the state assumed control over all existing enterprises and undertook an intensive program of industrialization. In agriculture, rather than adhering to the “lead by example” policy advocated by Lenin, forced collectivization of farms was implemented all over the country.

Famines ensued, causing millions of deaths surviving kulaks were persecuted and many sent to Gulags to do forced labor. Social upheaval continued in the mid-1930s. Stalin’s Great Purge resulted in the execution or detainment of many “Old Bolsheviks” who had participated in the October Revolution with Lenin. According to declassified Soviet archives, in 1937 and 1938 the NKVD arrested more than 1.5 million people, of whom 681,692 were shot. Over two years, that averages to over one thousand executions a day. According to historian Geoffrey Hosking, “…excess deaths during the 1930s as a whole were in the range of 10–11 million.” Yet despite the turmoil of the mid-to-late 1930s, the Soviet Union developed a powerful industrial economy in the years before World War II.

October Revolution

Finally, in October 1917, the Bolsheviks seized power.

The October Revolution (also referred to as the Bolshevik Revolution, the Bolshevik Coup and Red October), saw the Bolsheviks seize and occupy government buildings and the Winter Palace.

However, there was a disregard for this Bolshevik government. The rest of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets refused to acknowledge its legitimacy, and most of Petrograd’s citizens did not realise a revolution had occurred.

The New York Times headline from 9th November 1917.

The disregard for a Bolshevik government reveals, even at this stage, there was little Bolshevik support. This was reinforced in the November elections when the Bolsheviks only won 25% (9 million) of the votes while the Socialist Revolutionaries won 58% (20 million).

So even though the October Revolution established Bolshevik authority, they were objectively not the majority party.

Watch the video: What Russians think about Lenin?