History Revision Cards: Stalin's Dictatorship 1924-41


How Stalin became leader of the USSR: Part 1

Role of Others:

  • Kamenev and Zinoviev formed an alliance with Stalin against Trotsky (Troika)
  • Politburo choose not to publish Lenins' Last Testament due to Kamenev and Zinoviev
  • Later Stalin is supported by Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky against Kamenev and Zinoviev

Trotskys Weaknesses

  • Politburo worried about Trosky more than Stalin
  • Trotsky was unpopular and had only joined the party in 1917 and he was arrogant and aloof
  • Trotsky wanted world communism
  • Trotskys absence at Lenins funeral caused him huge political damage.October 1923- Trotsky + 46 leading others attacked NEP at 13th Party Conference, Politburo accused them of being troublemakers and marked them for political anihalation
  • 1925- Forced to resign as Commisar of War, 1926- Expelled from Politburo, 1928- Taken to prison camp by OGPU, 1940 - Assainated by soviet agent
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How Stalin became leader of the USSR: Part 2


  • Trotsky was in the Crimea at the time of Lenins' death recovering from Malria so Stalin lied about date of Funeral

Stalins Strength

  • Stalin only person allowed to visit Lenin before his death
  • Stalin was a brilliant organiser and politician  and had been editor of Pravda, the communist newspaper, he was also s well liked cheerful and friendly
  • In 1917 he was made Commisar for Nationalities. Stalin was also then made General Secretary by Lenin
  • The 'Lenin Levy' gave Stalin more supporters as they followed his book Foundations of Leninism
  • Stalin wanted to focus on USSR before World Communism more popular idea
  • Stalin could set dates for meetings that were best for him, decided on questions to be debated and order of who spoke
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How Stalin became leader of the USSR: Part 3

Stalins Strengths

  • The top 5000 Party Officals(momenKlatura) were directly appointed by Stalin and 20'000 (apparatchiki) were given jobs by these people- 70% of party members knew they owed their postion to Stalin
  • Agitprop- censored press and set school curriculim 
  • Stalins supporters heckled opponents at meetings
  • Stalin used OGPU to eliminate opponents and removed them from school textbooks and offical photos
  • Stalin removed Zinoviev and kamenev suppourters in Moscow and leningrad and replaced them with his own 
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The Purges: The Beginning

Why did Stalin bring in the purges?

  • He was concerned he may be overthrown by the old bolsheviks
  • Some suggest Stalin was a sadist who enjoyed cruelty
  • Some suggested he suffered from paranioa
  • They were a convinent way of excusing setbacks with his policies 
  • Meant he could get rid of enemies of the state
  • Some suggest Stalin was weak willed and easily influenced by others

The trigger cause: The Kirov Affair

The murder of Sergie Kirov was used by Stalin as an excuse to start the purges. Stalin used the murder as an excuse to accuse his enemies of being behind a terrorist conspiracy to assainate him. Stalin appointed Genrikh Yogda as head of the NKVD. In January 1935 Kamenev and Zinoviev as well of thousands of other party members were falsely arrested on terrorism charges. This gave Stalin a motive to start more arrests with punishments of execution or hard labour. It seems likely Stalin had Kirov murded as he saw him as a threat as the other delegates had voted for Kirov to take Stalins place as General Secretary

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The Purges: The Show Trials

Stalin gave the NKVD the power to organise trials of 'crimes against the state'.At the trials No witnesess or appeals were alowed and a confession could be extracted through torture.The trials were pointless only used to create illusion of democracy and justify punishment .

Faliure to inform the NKVD of a treason could result in 20 year prison sentence. Many Wealthy Farmers targeted during collectivisation were tried, then shot or sent to labour camps where they suffered near starvation and were forced to construct canal, railways even cities e.g. Magnitogorsk.

Most Old bolsheviks targeted and tried of ludicrous crimes were then shot. Including Zinoviev and Kamenev alongside 14 others who were accused of plotting to assasinate stalin and running a Trotskyite-Zinoviete-Counter-Revolutionary-Bloc on TV humiliated by prosecuter Andrei Vykinosky. In the same month Bukarin, Rykov and Tomsky arrested- Tomsky commited suicide. Stalin sacked Yogda replacing him with Nikolia Yezhov AKA The Bloody Dwarf.

Nearly 1 million lower ranking party officals thrown out, sent to gulaugs or shot. In total 1108 of the 1966 at the 17th party Conference were shot. The NKVD not immune some lower ranking members executed for supposedly delibreratly not rounding up enough traitors. Large numbers of goverment members famlies were exiled whilst they had to remain working and socialising with Stalin.

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The Purges: The Great Terror

Millions were arrested shot or sent to labour camps, they came from many different backgrounds though academics were particuarly at risk e.g. Belarus academy of science- Japanese spies. There were targets set for each town which led to random killings. In total 12 million people died as a result of either execution or from the conditions in the gulaugs. The NKVD could arrest and punish anyone with little to no evidence. People often denounced each other out of fear of being arrested themselves or to get the rewards some received when informing on co-workers. Suspects were just deprived of sleep or tortured until they confessed. About 450 labour camps where prisoners constructed canals e.t.c without machinery. 1 in 5 died of cold or starvation

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The Purges: Purge of The Armed Forces

In 1937, Stalin turned attention to the armed forces worrying officers may end his dictatorship. Marshall Tukachevsky and seven other generals were secretly tried and executed: 75 out of 80 men on the supreme military council were executed. in the Navy all six admirals were shot as were most of the airforce commanders. This all happened at the time that Stalin was most worried about Hitler so to give his military time to recover he signed the Nazi-Soviet pact.

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The Purges: The Results - Part 1

Armed Forces

  • The armed forces were essentially useless

Effect on Stalin as Dictator

  • Stalin had no opposition left to oppose him and was secure in power
  • Stalin had to sign a treaty with Hitler that gave half of the Poland to the USSR
  • Advisors will always agree with him leading to some bad decisons
  • Purges could be used as an excuse for failures
  • Meant Stalin could enforce and push through his policies e.g. 5 year plan and collectivisastion

Ordinary people and their lives

  • Education will suffer as teachers and professors purged
  • Unifies the country meaning Stalin can modernise the USSR
  • Killing peasants reduced farming production
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The Purges: The Results - Part 2

Skilled workers and members of professions

  • Lost industrial workers vital to increase production and collectivisation
  • Modernisation will slow due to loss of top scientists and engineers
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Stalins Propaganda Methods: Part 1


  • All books, newspapers, radio broadcasts and filmns were censored


  • School children had to join the young pioneers
  • Schools were used to make good soviet citizens. Pupils studied from offical textbooks that often had an edited version of the truth. They wore strict uniform(including compulsory pig tails for girls. History textbooks were especially controlled. They described strong Russian leaders such as Peter the Great and told how stalin lead the 1917 revolution. Trotsky was never mentioned

Lenin & 1917-21

  • Images like photographs were altered to exagerate Stalins links with Lenin
  • Stalin made frequent propagnada speeches to stress that he was heir to Lenin
  • Propaganda used to attack his rrivals and promote his idea of 'socialism in one country' e.g. Trotsky trying to undo Stalins achievements 
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Stalins Propaganda Methods: Part 2

Literature, the arts & the sciences 

  • Writers and film makers wre told that they must produce works in praise of Stalins acheivements
  • Paintings were commisined highlighting his role in the events of 1917-21
  • Literature was tightly conrolled . In 1932 the Union of Soviet Writers was set up it was instructed that novels had to celebrate Soviet heroes and every story had to have a happy ending. Its aim was to make readers better socialists- called 'Socialist Realism'
  • Industry and Science had to serve the state
  • Soviet Sculpture and art had to depict soviet heroes
  • Musicians were expected to compose popular pieces celebrating achievments of the soviet workforce in the modernisation of the country
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Stalins Propaganda Methods: Part 3

Cult of Personality

  • Propagnda posters featuring Stalin and happy workers were widespread
  • Streets and towns were named after Stalin, his name was everywhere newspapers referred to him as "The man of Steel" and "The Iron Soilder"
  • There were great parades to celebrate the glory of Stalin. Expensive building work was brought in to show how successful Stalin was e.g. Moscow Metro and the Steel City of Magnitogorsk
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Economic Situation of the USSR by 1929

  • NEP introduced in 1921, it allowed peasants to own their own land and sell any surplus food
  • Some peasants -The Kulaks became quite well off, some employed other peasnts to work on their land this lead to many peasents resenting the more privelleged Kulaks
  • USSR was still vunerable to attcack
  • New factories and new towns neede to be built , but more food would be nneded so agriculture needed to be modernised
  • New machinery needed to be purchased paid for by exporting goods to the west
  • Country urgently needed more industry to produce weapons and Stalin recognised  that heavy industries like coal, steel and oil needed focus ( Heavy Industry)
  • Food production increases in 1920s, but still many problems. Peasants still ised primitive methods of agriculture use little machinery and producing low yield.
  • Lenin allowed some factories to be owned by private individuals some made lots of money from this and beacme known as "Nepmen" like the Kulaks they were also unpopular with the workers
  • Little Industrial development
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Collectivisation: The Reasons and Theory


  • Russian agriculture was backward and ineffecient in 1928
  • USSR was 5 million tonnes short of feeding its people
  • Most farms were small and peasants were still using old metrhods of farming
  • Stalin had to seize grain from the peasants in the past
  • Industry dependent on agriculture
  • Stalin was unsure if he would have the peasants support
  • Food crisis in 1928


  • Plots of land would be collected together into large farms- should be more productive than small holdings. This was because the large farms known as collectives used machinery such as tractors and combine harvesters. All animals were given to collectives
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Collectivisation: The Process

  • Twenty-five million peasants farms were to be combined to form 240,000 collective fsrms called Kolkhoz
  • Each was to be run by a comitee and the peasants worked under the control of a farm manager
  • Each farm produced a set amount of grain which was then sold to the state for a low price
  • To make the fafrms more effecient the state provided tractors and other machinery from Motor Tractor Stations
  • Many peasnts refused to co-operate destroying livestock and produce
  • Stalin destroyed the Kulaks to get less resistance from normal peasants, though many still resisted
  • From 1929 to 1931 the number of cattle fell from 67 to 48 million, and the number of sheep and goats from 147 to 78 million
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Collectivisation: The Results


  • War against Kulaks- land taken from them and shared among the peasants
  • By 1937 nearly all farmland in the USSR was orgabised in collective farms , this meant production levels increased in the late 1930s. By 1940, 95 million tonnes of grain were being produced and there were 27 million pigs in comparison to 10 million in 1933
  • Farms run by Kolkhoz necessary to motivate peasnts however they didnt know how to run farms
  • Benefits for hard workers including hospitals and schools
  • Nearly 17 million peasants moved to the towns 


  • It is estimated that the animal population fell by half in three years
  • Grain production fell from 84 million tonnes in 1930 to 68 million tonnes in 1933
  • Terrible famine in which an estimated 6 million died between 1931-33
  • Kulak families were arrested and 'liquidated'- they were shot or deported to labour camps
  • Many peasants remained in extreme poverty
  • 5 million kulaks were executed or deported and more than 13 million people died
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Why did Stalin introduce the 5 Years Plans after 1

  • To modernise industry in the USSR 
  • Produce weapons for the army and strengthen the USSR to defend from invasion
  • Industry needed to produce the machinery needed for collectivisation e.g.  Tractors
  • Replace the NEP
  • Introduce Communism so wealth could be shared more easily
  • Redistribute the Industry so that it was not concentrated in only a few cities
  • Make the USSR competitve with the rest of the world to show communism worked
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The Five-Year Plans: Dates and Aims

1st Five-Year Plan, 1928-32:

Aimed to expand heavy industry- coal, iron, steel, oil, electricty. Failed to meet targets, substantial growth achieved. Number of industrial workers more than doubled and new industiral cities built

2nd Five-Year Plan, 1933-37:

Contiued to focus on heavy industry alongside transport as well as making machines machines especially tractors

3rd Five-Year Plan, 1938:

Idea of producing more consumer goods. Disrupted by threat of war with Nazi Germany. Changed to building weapons

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Successes of Industrialistion


  • Russian industry changed and expanded enormously 
  • Old industrustrial areas were expanded and redeveloped and new ones built in the Urals and Siberia meaning less likely to be attacked
  • In 8 years Magnitogorsk was transformed from a tiny village to a massive industrial city
  • In totla over 100 new cities were built
  • Huge Scale projects acheived despite lack of experienced workers such as  the Dneiper hydroelectric dam which produced more electricty than in the whole of Tsarist Russia or the Moscow Metero admired by both Russians and foreign visitors
  • Improved transport system
  • Huge growth in science and technology
  • Built machines e.g. Tractors needed for collectivisation
  • Increased number of industrial workers and higher pay for skilled workers


  • Oppurtunities for women
  • Literacy skills for workers
  • Universities and colleges built alongside free education and healthcare
  • Rewards for successful workers e.g. Staknovites


  • Acheived at time rest ofn the world in depression
  • Made up 200 years in 10 years
  • Helped USSR resist Nazi invasion
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Stalins Propaganda methods


  • Religious Worship was banned- Stalijn didn't want people to be loyal to anyone else
  • Only one of 163 Orthodox Christian bishops survied beyond 1939
  • Muslim mosques and schools banned
  • Jewish leaders were executed and Yiddish schools closed


  • There was a war against nationalism; Stalin imposed apolicy of 'Russification. National laungauges, legends and literature were banned
  • Goverments of national republics purged e.g. in 1937-38 everymember of the Ukranie Goverment were arrested
  • In Ukraine oppostion treated ruthlessly a famine killed (about 5 million people)
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