Biography of Josef Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin (18 December 1878 – 5 March 1953) was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 until his death on 5 March 1953. Among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the Russian Revolution in 1917, Stalin held the position of General Secretary of the party's Central Committee from 1922 until his death. While the office was initially not highly regarded, Stalin used it to consolidate more power after the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924, gradually putting down all opposition. This included Leon Trotsky, the principal critic of Stalin among the early Soviet leaders. Whereas Trotsky advocated world permanent revolution, Stalin's concept of socialism in one country became primary policy as he emerged the leader of the Soviet Union.
In 1928, Stalin replaced the decade's New Economic Policy with a highly centralised command economy and Five-Year Plans, launching a period of industrialization and collectivization in the countryside. As a result, the USSR was rapidly transformed from an agrarian society into an industrial power, the basis for its emergence as the world's second largest economy after World War II. However, the rapid changes saw millions of people sent to correctional labour camps, and deported and exiled to remote areas of the Soviet Union. The initial upheaval in agriculture disrupted food production and contributed to the catastrophic Soviet famine of 1932–1933. In 1937–38, a campaign against alleged enemies of the Stalinist regime culminated in the Great Purge, a period of mass repression against the population in which hundreds of thousands of people were executed. Major figures in the Communist Party such as Trotsky and Red Army leaders, were killed, convicted of participating in plots to overthrow the Soviet government and Stalin.
In August 1939, after Stalin's attempts to establish an Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance failed, Stalin entered into a pact with Nazi Germany that divided their influence in Eastern Europe and allowed the USSR to regain some of its lost territories. Germany violated the pact by invading the Soviet Union in 1941, opening the bloodiest theatre of war in history, the Eastern Front. The Soviet Union joined the Allies and despite heavy human and territorial losses in the initial period of war, it stopped the Axis advance in the decisive battles of Moscow and Stalingrad. Eventually, the Red Army drove through Eastern Europe and captured Berlin in May 1945. Having played a decisive role in the Allied victory against Germany, the USSR emerged as a recognized superpower after the war. Stalin attended the delegations at the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences, which drew the map of post-war Europe. State communist governments loyal to the Soviet Union were installed in the Eastern Bloc, as satellite states. Stalin intended these to be a buffer in case of another war, as the USSR was beginning to enter a struggle for global dominance with the Western world. In Asia, Stalin fostered relations with Mao Zedong in China and Kim Il-sung in North Korea, and his rule served as a model for their newly formed respective governments.
In power until his death in 1953, Stalin led the USSR during the period of post-war reconstruction, marked by the dominance of Stalinist architecture. The successful development of the Soviet nuclear program enabled the country to become the world's second nuclear weapons power; the later Soviet space program began as a spin-off of the nuclear project. Stalin also launched the Great Construction Projects of Communism and the Great Plan for the Transformation of Nature. Stalin and his regime have been condemned on numerous occasions, the most significant being in 1956, when Stalin's successor Nikita Khrushchev denounced his legacy and initiated a process of de-Stalinization. Modern views of Stalin in the Russian Federation and the world remain mixed, with some viewing him as a tyrant and mass murderer, others as a capable and necessary leader for the time.