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Stalin: A New History

The figure of Joseph Stalin has always provoked heated and often polariseddebate.Therecentdeclassificationofasubstantialportionof Stalin’sarchivehasmadepossiblethisfundamentalnewassessmentof the Soviet leader. In this groundbreaking study, leading international experts challege many assumptions about Stalin from his early life in Georgia to the Cold War years with contributions ranging across the political, economic, social, cultural, ideological, and international his-toryoftheStalinera.Thevolumeprovidesadeeper understanding of the nature of Stalin’s power and of the role of ideas in his politics, presenting a more complex and nuanced image of one of the most important leaders of the twentieth century. This study is without pre-cedentinthefieldofRussianhistoryandwillproveinvaluablereading forstudentsofStalinandStalinism.

S A R A H D A V I E S is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Durham.Sheistheauthorof PopularOpinioninStalin’sRussia:Terror, Propaganda,andDissent1934–1941 (1997).

J A M E S H A R R I S is SeniorLecturerinHistoryattheUniversityofLeeds. H eis t heaut hor of TheGreatUrals:RegionalismandtheEvolutionofthe SovietSystem (1999).



A New History



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Notesoncontributors page vii

Preface ix Anoteontransliteration x Glossary xi 1 JosephStalin:powerandideas S A R A H D A V I E S A N D J A M E S H A R R I S 1 2 StalinasGeorgian:theformativeyears A L F R E D J. R I E B E R 18 3 StalinasCommissarforNationalityAffairs,1918–1922 J E R E M Y S M I T H 45 4 StalinasGeneralSecretary:theappointmentsprocess andthenatureofStalin’spower J A M E S H A R R I S 63 5 StalinasPrimeMinister:powerandthePolitburo J. A R C H G E T T Y 83 6 Stalinasdictator:thepersonalisationofpower O L E G V. K H L E V N I U K 108 7 Stalinaseconomicpolicy-maker:Sovietagriculture, 1931–1936 R. W. D A V I E S 121 8 Stalinasforeignpolicy-maker:avoidingwar, 1927–1953 A L F R E D J. R I E B E R 140 9 StalinasMarxist:theWesternrootsofStalin’s russificationofMarxism E R I K V A N R E E 159 v


10 StalinasBolshevikromantic:ideologyandmobilisation, 1917–1939 D A V I D P R I E S T L A N D 181 11 Stalinaspatronofcinema:creatingSovietmassculture, 1932–1936 S A R A H D A V I E S 202 12 Stalinasproducer:theMoscowshowtrialsandthe constructionofmortalthreats W I L L I A M C H A S E 226 13 Stalinassymbol:acasestudyofthepersonalitycultand itsconstruction D A V I D B R A N D E N B E R G E R 249 14 Stalinasthecoryphaeusofscience:ideologyand knowledgeinthepost-waryears E T H A N P O L L O C K 271 Index 289


Notes on contributors

D A V I D B R A N D E N B E R G E R is Assistant Professor in the Department of

History at the University of Richmond, Virginia. He is the author of NationalBolshevism:StalinistMassCultureandtheFormationofModern Russian National Identity, 1931–1956 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2002) and numerous articles on the culture and politicsoftheStalinperiod.

W I L L I A M C H A S E isProfessorintheHistorydepartmentattheUniversity

of Pittsburgh. His most recent book is Enemies within the Gates? The Comintern and the Stalinist Repression, 1934–39 (New Haven: Yale UniversityPress,2001).

R. W. D A V I E S is Professor (Emeritus) at the Centre for Russian and

East European Studies, University of Birmingham. He has written extensively on Soviet history. His most recent book (written with Dr Stephen Wheatcroft) was the fifth volume of his history of Soviet industrialisation: The Years of Hunger: Soviet Agriculture, 1931–1933 (Basingstoke:PalgraveMacmillan,2004).

S A R A H D A V I E S is Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at the

University of Durham and the author of Popular Opinion in Stalin’s Russia: Terror, Propaganda, and Dissent (Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress,1997).

J. A R C H G E T T Y is Professor of History in the Department of History at

UCLA. He is the author of numerous books and articles on Stalinist terror and the politics of the Stalin era, including (with V. Naumov) The Road to Terror: Stalin and the Self-Destruction of the Bolsheviks, 1932–1939 (NewHaven:YaleUniversityPress,1999).Heiscurrently completingabiographyofNikolaiEzhov.

JAMESHARRIS isSeniorLecturerintheSchoolofHistoryattheUniversity

of Leeds. He is the author of The Great Urals: Regionalism and the EvolutionoftheSovietSystem (Ithaca:CornellUniversityPress,1999).


O L E G K H L E V N I U K is Senior Researcher at the State Archive of the

Russian Federation, Moscow. His most recent book is The History of the Gulag: From Collectivization to the Great Terror (New Haven: Yale UniversityPress,2004).

E T H A N P O L L O C K isAssistantProfessorofHistoryattheMaxwellSchool

ofSyracuseUniversity.Heiscurrentlycompletingamonographunder thetitle StalinandtheSovietScienceWars.

D A V I D P R I E S T L A N D is Lecturer in Modern History at the University of

Oxford andFellow of S t E d mu n d H a l l . H ei s t h e a ut h o r of Stalinand the Politics of Mobilization: Ideas, Power, and Terror in Inter-war Russia (Oxford:OxfordUniversityPress,2005).

E R I K VAN REE is Lecturer at the Institute for East European Studies of

the University of Amsterdam. His most recent book is The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin: A Study in Twentieth-Century Revolutionary Patriotism (London:RoutledgeCurzon,2002).

A L F R E D R I E B E R is Professor of History at the Central European

University in Budapest and also Professor (Emeritus) at the University of Pennsylvania. His many publications include Stalin and the French Communist Party, 1941–1947 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1962) and Merchants and Entrepreneurs in Imperial Russia (ChapelHill:UniversityofNorthCarolinaPress,1981).

J E R E M Y S M I T H isLecturerinTwentieth-CenturyRussianHistoryatthe

Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Birmingham. He is the author of The Bolsheviks and the National Question,1917–1923 (Basingstoke:Macmillan,1999).



Most of the chapters in this volume were presented to the twenty-ninth annualconferenceoftheStudyGroupontheRussianRevolutionheldat HatfieldCollege,UniversityofDurham,inJanuary2003.Wearegrateful that on the fiftieth anniversary of Stalin’s death, the Study Group was willingtostretchitsdefinitionoftheRevolutionasfaras1953.Thehigh standardofthepapersandofthediscussionamongtheparticipantsmade it a memorable event. While it has not been possible to publish all the paperspresentedtotheconference,alloftheparticipantscontributedto the success of the event, and the quality of this volume. Neither the conferencenorthisbookwouldhavebeenpossiblewithoutthegenerous financial support of the British Academy and the British Association of SlavonicandEastEuropeanStudies.Weareparticularlygratefultothose who have contributed chapters to the collection for their patience and rapid replies to our queries. Finally, we thank Michael Watson of CambridgeUniversityPressforhisunflagginginterestinthisproject.



A note on transliteration

The Library of Congress system has been adopted except in the case of certain words which are commonly transliterated otherwise (Trotsky, Gorky, for example). Chapter 12 uses the transliteration system of the publishedtrialtranscriptsonwhichitisbased.



Agi tprop DepartmentofAgitationandPropaganda

Artel’ formofcollectivefarminwhichpeasantsretainsomelivestockand aplot

ASSR AutonomousSovietSocialistRepublic

C e n t r a l C o m m i t t e e decision-makingbodyoftheParty

Central Control Commi ssion department of Central Committee whichinvestigatedcomplaints

C o mi n f o r m CommunistInformationBureau C o mi n te r n CommunistInternational Commi s sar HeadofCommissariat

Commi s sariat equivalentofministry(till1946)

Council of Ministers , Sovmin formal government of USSR (from 1946)

Councilof People’sCommissars,Sovnarkom formalgovernmentof USSR(till1946)

Dzhugashvili Stalin’ssurname

ECCI ExecutiveCommitteeofComintern GKO CommitteeforStateDefence

Glavrepertkom Main Directorate for the Oversight of Spectacles and Repertoire

Gork o m cityPartycommittee Gosplan StatePlanningCommission

G r e a tR ef o r ms reformsinitiatedbyAlexanderII

Great Retreat term used by N. Timasheff to describe turn towards conservativepoliciesin1930s

G r e a t T e r r o r periodofmassarrestsandexecutions,1936–8 Guberniia province

G U K F / G U K Main Directorate of the Cinematic and Photographic Industry/MainDirectorateofCinematography

I M E L Marx-Engels-LeninInstitute

Kinogorod ‘Cinema-city’;SovietHollywood Kolkhoz collectivefarm


Koms omol CommunistYouthLeague Komzag AgriculturalCollectionsCommittee

Korenizatsiia indigenisation; a policy of promoting elites from within ethnicgroups

KPG GermanCommunistParty

KPK Party Control Commission, department of Central Committee responsibleforcheckingthefulfilmentofdecisions Kresy Poland’spre-wareasternprovinces Kul’tprop DepartmentofCultureandPropaganda K V Z h D ChineseFarEasternRailway L e n i n g r a d A f f a i r purgesofLeningradPartyorganisationin1949 mesame-dasi GeorgianMarxistOrganisation MVD MinistryofInternalAffairs Narkomnats Peoples’CommissariatofNationalityAffairs Narkompros Peoples’CommissariatofEnlightenment Nark omzem Peoples’CommissariatofAgriculture N a r o d , n a r o d y people,peoples Narodnosti nationalities Natsiia nation Neo-NEP referstopoliciesintroducedwithovertonesofNEPin1932 NEP NewEconomicPolicy,periodoflimitedfreemarket(1921–8) Nomenklatura listsofleadingposts,referstoSovietpoliticalelite NKVD Peoples’CommissariatofInternalAffairs Oblast’ province OGIZ UnifiedStatePublishingHouse OGPU UnifiedStatePoliticalAdministration–statesecuritypolice Okrug district Opros/Oprosom poll/byapoll Orgbu ro OrganisationBureauoftheCentralCommitteeoftheParty ORPO DepartmentoftheLeadingPartyOrgansofCentralCommittee Peoples’W ill aterrorist,revolutionaryorganisationofpopulists Pol itburo PoliticalBureauoftheCentralCommittee

Politotdel Politicaldepartment

P O U M Workers’PartyofMarxistUnification Rabk rin Workers’andPeasants’Inspectorate Raion district RKP(b) RussianCommunistParty(bolsheviks) RSDWP RussianSocialDemocraticWorkers’Party RSFSR RussianSovietFederalSocialistRepublic Samizdat ‘self-published’(underground)literature Secretariat oftheCentralCommitteeoftheParty


Short Course History of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks): ShortCourse Soiuzkino All-UnionAmalgamationoftheCinematicandPhotographic Industry Soso apetnameforStalinusedbysomeofhisclosefriends Sovkhoz statefarm Sovmin seeCouncilofMinisters Sovnarkom seeCouncilofPeople’sCommissars

Stakhanovite a member of the movement in the 1930s, following the exampleofminerAlekseiStakhanov,intendedtoincreaseproduction Stanitsa village STO CouncilofLabourandDefence SupremeSoviet highestlegislativebodyintheUSSR(from1937) Vedomstva departments/institutions Vedomstvennost’ departmentalism VKP(b) All-UnionCommunistParty(bolsheviks) Vospitanie education Vozhd’ leader VSNKh SupremeEconomicCouncil

VTsIK All-Union CentralExecutiveCommittee,till1937highestlegis - lativebodyintheUSSR



Joseph Stalin: power and ideas

Sarah Davies and James Harris



subject of enduring public fascination. Academic attention, however, hasshiftedawayfromthestudyof‘GreatMen’,includingStalin,towards thelittlemenandwomen,suchasthenowcelebratedStepanPodlubnyi, 2 andtowardsStalinistpoliticalculturemoregenerally. Ironicallythisisat atimewhenwehaveunprecedentedaccesstohithertoclassifiedmaterial 3

on Stalin, the individual. The object of this volume is to reinvigorate scholarly interest in Stalin, his ideas, and the nature of his power. Although Stalin certainly did not single-handedly determine everything about the set of policies, practices, and ideas we have come to call Stalinism, it is nowindisputable that in many respects his influencewas decisive. A clearer understanding of his significance will allow more preciseanalysisoftheoriginsandnatureofStalinismitself.

1 Notetheinterestinseveralrecentpublicationsaimedprimarilyatapopularreadership: MartinAmis, KobatheDread:LaughterandtheTwentyMillion (London:JonathanCape, 2002);SimonSebagMontefiore, Stalin:TheCourtoftheRedTsar (London:Weidenfeld andNicolson,2003);DonaldRayfield, StalinandhisHangmen (London:Viking,2004). 2 Podlubnyi has been made famous by Jochen Hellbeck in a number of publications,

including‘FashioningtheStalinistSoul:TheDiaryofStepanPodlubnyi,1931 –1939’, Jahrbucherfu¨rGeschichteOsteuropas 4 4( 1 99 6) ,3 44–73.Onthe‘culturalturn’inSoviet history,seetheintroductionbySheilaFitzpatrickin Stalinism:NewDirections (London: Routledge,2000).

3 Muchofthisisinthe‘Stalin fond’intheRussianStateArchiveofSocio-PoliticalHistory (Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv sotsial’no-politicheskoi istorii, henceforth RGASPI fond558,opis’11),whichincludescorrespondencereceivedfromandsenttoeveryone from the members of his inner circle to peasants and foreign journalists; documents relatingtoStalin’sactivitiesintheorganisationsinwhichheworked;speeches,articles, biographical materials, and so on. Some documents from this collection have been published,i ncludin gthet wo importantv olumes:LarsLih,OlegV.Naumov,andOleg V.Khlevniuk(eds.), Stalin’sLetterstoMolotov,1925–1936 (NewHaven:YaleUniversity Press, 1995); R.W. Davies, O. Khlevniuk, E.A. Rees L. Kosheleva, and L. Rogovaia (eds.), TheStalin–KaganovichCorrespondence,1931–1936 (NewHaven:YaleUniversity Press,2003).


The cont ributors to the volum e do not subscr ibe to any single ‘mode l’. Inst ead, the y sha re a common agend a: to examine the new archival mat erials, as well as the old, with the aim of rethinkin g som e of the stere otypes and assumpti ons abou t Stalin tha t have accumul ated in the histo riography . The vast literat ure on St alin is of varyin g quali ty, inclu d- ing journalist ic specu lations, sensat ionali st potboil ers, an d polit ical dia- trib es, as well as the importan t studies by Isaac Deut scher, Robert


Tuc ker, and othe rs. Much of the work to date has been affected by both limited access to primary sourc es an d the unusuall y int ense politi- cisa tion of the fie ld of Sov iet stu dies.

The Soviet regime was obse ssed wi th secre cy. Histor ians had to rel y on a narro w group of use ful sources, inclu ding publ ished resolut ions and decis ions, stenographi c report s of some major Party meeti ngs, and pub- lishe d speeches of pro minent offic ials. While the se sorts of sourc es could be quite useful , the y tended to reveal m ore abou t what was hap pening in thelowerechelonsofpower.TheydivulgedlittleornothingaboutStalin andhisinnercircle.Althoughthepost -Stalinperiodsawlimitedselected archi val acc ess, as well as the incre asing availab ility of m emoirs, samizdat, and e´migre´ sources, the thoughts and actions of the political elite remainedlargelyamatterofspeculation.Inthepolarisedpoliticalclimate ofmuchofthetwentiethcentury,itwasnot uncommonforscholarsand otherobserverstoseewhatconfirmedtheirassumptionsandprejudices.

The political context left a strong mark on both Soviet and western interpretations. Soviet historians were forced to conform to whatever happenedtobetheParty’scurrentpoliticallineonStalin,andproduced whatwasessentiallypropagandafortheregime.Exceptionsincludedthe dissident Marxist Roy Medvedev, whose work, based primarily on Khrushchev-erareminiscences,went farbeyond whatwasofficiallyper- missible in its criticism of Stalin for his distortion of Lenin’s original


project. While Western analysts were not under such overt pressure, their interpretations were also heavily dependent on changing political circumstances. For example, the politically charged 1930s saw the pub- licationinFranceof,ontheonehand,thesycophanticbiographyofStalin by the Communist Henri Barbusse, and on the other, the former

4 IsaacDeutscher, Stalin:APoliticalBiography,rev.edn.(London:Penguin,1984);Robert Tucker, StalinasRevolutionary,1879–1929.AStudyinHistoryandPersonality (NewYork: W .W . N o r t o n , 1 9 7 3 ) a n d StalininPower:TheRevolutionfromAbove,1928–1941 (New York:W .W .Norton,1990);AdamUlam, Stalin:TheManandHisEra,2ndedn.(London: I.B.Tauris,1989);R.McNeal, Stalin:ManandRuler (London:Macmillan,1988). 5 R.Medvedev, LetHistoryJudge:TheOriginsandConsequencesofStalinism (Oxford:Oxford



Communist Boris Souvarine’s vitriolic anti-Stalin study. During the wartime alliance with Stalin, a spate of sympathetic evaluations appeared in the USA and Great Britain, which quickly evaporated as


the Cold War began. Academic Sovietology, a child of the early Cold War, was dominated by the ‘totalitarian model’ of Soviet politics. Until the 1960s it was almost impossible to advance any other interpretation, intheUSAatleast.Itwasthechangingpoliticalclimatefromthe1960s, as well as the influence of new social science methodologies, which fostered the development of revisionist challenges to the totalitarian orthodoxy.

Overthecourseoftheseyears,anumberofinfluentialstudiesofStalin appeared, whose interpretations hinged on particular understandings of therelationshipbetweentheindividualandhispolitical,social,economic, ideological, and cultural context. One of the earliest was that of Trotsky, who advanced the notion of the ‘impersonal Stalin’ – a mediocrity who lackedanyofhisownideasbutwhoactedastheperfectrepresentativeof


thecollectiveinterestsofthenewbureaucracy. TheTrotskyistsympathi- ser, Isaac Deutscher, writing after the war, was much more willing than Trotsky to credit Stalin’s achievements, yet his Stalin was also to a great extent a product of circumstances. In Deutscher’s view, the policy of collectivisation was dictated by the danger of famine conditions at the endofthe1920s.Stalinwasanecessaryagentofmodernisationamanof


‘almost impersonal personality.’ Likewise, E.H. Carr, while recognising Stalin’s greatness, nevertheless stressed the historical logic of rapid mod- ernisation: collectivisation and industrialisation ‘were imposed by the


objectivesituationwhichSovietRussiainthelater1920shadtoface’. Whiletheseanalysesfocusedonthesocio-economiccircumstanceswhich produced the Stalin phenomenon, totalitarian theories accentuated the functioningofthepoliticalandideologicalsystem.In1953,CarlFrie drich characterisedtotalitariansystemsintermsoffivepoints:anofficialideology, control of weapons and of media, use of terror, and a single mass party

6 H. Barbusse, Stalin: A New World Seen Through One Man (London: John Lane The BodleyHead,1935);B.Souvarine, Stalin:ACriticalStudyofBolshevism (London:Secker andWarburg,1939).

7 For example, J.T. Murphy, Stalin 1879–1944 (London: John Lane The Bodley Head,1945).

8 L. Trotsky, Stalin: An Appraisal of the Man and his Influence (London: Harper and Bros.1941). 9 Deutscher, Stalin,p. 275. 10 E.H.Carr,‘StalinVictorious’, TimesLiterarySupplement,10June1949.Inhisintroduction toaneweditionofTheRussianRevolutionfromLenintoStalin,R.W.DaviesnotesthatCarr’s understandingofStalin’sroleshiftedinlateryears.E.H.Carr, TheRussianRevolutionfrom LenintoStalin,1917–1929 (London:PalgraveMacmillan,2004),pp.xxxiv–xxxv.



‘usuallyunderasingleleader’. Therewasofcourseanassumptionthatthe leader was critical to the workings of totalitarianism: at the apex of a monolithic, centralised, and hierarchical system, it was he who issued the orderswhichwerefulfilledunquestioninglybyhissubordinates.However, adherentsofthemodelwerenotgenerallyconcernedwiththeleaderexcept in his capacity as a function of the system and its ideology. There was certainly little empirical analysis of the significance of individual leaders: thepersonalitiesorideasofaLeninoraStalinwerenotconsideredcritical



ItwaspartlydissatisfactionwiththisapproachwhichlaybehindRobert Tucker’sattempttoreassessthesignificanceoftheleader.Thefirstvolume of his Stalin biography argued that the personality of the dictator was central to understanding the development of Stalinism. Tucker distin- guished between the impact of Lenin and that of Stalin, suggesting that the Stalinist outcomewas far from inevitable andwasdependent inlarge measure on Stalin’s own drive for power. Delving into the uncharted watersofpsychohistory,hesoughttherootsofStalinisminStalin’sexperi -


encesinchildhoodandbeyond. Thiswasan importantnewdeparture, whichcoincidedwithothereffortstofindalternativestoStalinism,notably


Stephen Cohen’s study of Bukharin. Yet the psychohistory on which it


depended was always rather speculative. The second volume of the biography was in many ways more rounded. Stalin in Power argued that Russia’sauthoritarianpoliticalcultureandstate-buildingtraditions,aswell



Tucker’s work stressed the absolute nature of Stalin’s power, an assumptionwhichwasincreasinglychallengedbylaterrevisionisthistori - ans. In his Origins of the GreatPurges, Arch Getty argued that the Soviet politicalsystemwaschaotic,thatinstitutionsoftenescapedthecontrolof thecentre,andthatStalin’sleadershipconsistedtoaconsiderableextent


in responding, on an ad hoc basis, to political crises as they arose.

11 C.J. Friedrich, Totalitarianism (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1954), pp.52–3.

12 RobertTucker, TheSovietPoliticalMind (London:GeorgeAllenandUnwin,1972),p.28. 13 Tucker, StalinasRevolutionary.

14 S.Cohen, BukharinandtheBolshevikRevolution:APoliticalBiography,1888–1938 (New Y o rk: A.A. K no pf, 19 7 3).

15 AlthoughTucker’sapproachwasalwaysmuchmorehistoricallygroundedthanthefar lessconvincingpsychoanalyticalaccountofferedbyD.Rancour -Lafferierein TheMindof Stalin (AnnArbor:Ardis,1988).

16 Tucker, StalininPower.

17 J. Arch Getty, Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933–1938 (Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,1985),pp.4–9.


Getty’s work was influenced by political science of the 1960s onwards, which, in a critique of the totalitarian model, began to consider the possibility that relatively autonomous bureaucratic institutions might


have had some influence on policy-making at the highest level. In the 1970s,historianstookuptheimplicitchallengeandexploredavarietyof


influencesandpressuresondecision-making. The‘discovery’ofstrong institutionalinterestsandlivelybureaucraticpoliticsbeggedthequestion of whether Stalin did dominate the political system, or whether he was



During the ‘new Cold War’ of the 1980s, the work of the revisionists becametheobjectofheatedcontroversy,accusedofminimisingStalin’s


role,ofdownplayingtheterror,andsoon. W iththethecollapseofthe SovietUnion,someoftheheathasgoneoutofthedebate.Aftertheinitial wave of self-justificatory ‘findings’, the opening up of the archives has stimulated serious work with sources. The politicisation of the field has become noticeably less pronounced, particularly amongst a younger generation of scholars in both Russia and the West for whom the legiti- macy of socialism and the USSR are no longer such critical issues. Political history in general has attracted fewer students in favour of the moreintellectuallyfashionableculturalhistory.However,therearesigns of the emergence of a renewed interest in political history, of which this



All the contributors to the volume represent the post-1991 wave of scholarship grounded in empirical work in the former Soviet archives. From North America and Europe, including Russia, they range from scholarswhohavebeenworkingontheseproblemsforoverhalfacentury to those who have recently completed doctoral dissertations. Each

18 Forexample,GordonSkilling,‘InterestGroupsinCommunistPolitics’, WorldPolitics 3 (1966),435–51.

19 See for example, Moshe Lewin, ‘Taking Grain: Soviet Policies of Agricultural Procurements Before the War’, in C. Abramsky (ed.), Essays in Honour of E.H. Carr (London: Macmillan, 1974); Jonathan Harris, ‘The Origins of the Conflict Between MalenkovandZhdanov,1939–1941’, SlavicReview 2(1976),287–303;DanielBrower, ‘CollectivizedAgricultureinSmolensk:theParty,thePeasantryandtheCrisisof1932’, RussianReview 2(1977),151–66;SheilaFitzpatrick(ed.), CulturalRevolutioninRussia, 1928–1931 (Bloomington,Ind.:IndianaUniversityPress,1978);PeterSolomon,‘Soviet PenalPolicy,1917–1934:AReinterpretation’, SlavicReview 2(1980),195–217;Werner Hahn, PostwarSovietPolitics:TheFallofZhdanovandtheDefeatofModeration,1946–1953 (Ithaca:CornellUniversityPress,1982).

20 W illiamO.McCagg,Jr, StalinEmbattled,1943–1948 (Detroit:WayneStateUniversity Press, 1978).See also GaborRittersporn, ‘L’e´tat en lutte contre lui-meˆme: Tensions socialesetconflitspolitiquesenURSS,1936–1938’, Libre 4(1978).

21 See,forexample,thedebatesin RussianReview 4(1986).


considersaspecificfacetofStalinaspoliticianandthinker.Inthediscus - sion which follows, we focus on what light these analyses shed on two importantquestions.Thefirst,thenatureofStalin’spower,haslongbeen acentralissueinthehistoriography.Thesecond,Stalin’sMarxism,and the relationship between ideas and mobilisation, has received much less attention.

The majority of what we know about Stalin concerns his years in power. While this focus of the historian’s attention is entirely logical, it is easy to forget that by the time he defeated Bukharin and became the uncontested leader of the Bolshevik Party, Stalin was fifty years old. He had lived two-thirds of his life. It would be surprising indeed if by this time Stalin was not fully developed as a personality, a thinker, and a politician. And yet somehow, few works on Stalin pay much attention


to his ‘formative years’. Alfred Rieber’s chapter on Stalin’s Georgian background shows why this has been the case. He explains why sources on Stalin’s early years were particularly subject to manipulation and censorship.Hemakesuseofpublishedandunpublishedmemoirstocut throughthemyth -makingandcastnewlightonStalin’searlylifeandthe formation of his identity. He shows how Stalin adapted his political persona, shaped by his ‘frontier perspective’ to benefit his career as a revolutionary and politician. His early experiences left him with a pre- ference for decision-making in small informal groups in place of large committees,aconspiratorialmentality,andanacceptanceofviolence.

In his study of Stalin as Commissar of Nationalities, Jeremy Smith picksupthisstoryofStalin’sformativeyearsintheperiodjustafterthe Revolution. He shows Stalin a l r e a d y c onfident a nd c onsistent i n h is ideas on nationalities policy, willing and able to stand up to Lenin on questionsofpolicytowardsthenationalminoritiesandtherelationship between Russia and the other Soviet republics. The chapter by David PriestlandechoesthisimpressionthatStalinwasconfidentinhisideas and quite willing and able to engage other leading Bolsheviks on key issues. This is consonant with growing evidence that policy debates played a much stronger role in the Lenin succession than we had


imagined. Machine politics did, nevertheless, play a crucial role in Stalin’s ability to defeat his opponents. In his chapter, Smith also dis- cusses Stalin’s early experiences of high politics within the Bolshevik Party in power, particularly as they developed his skills of factional

23 OnerecentRussianstudybegins‘LetusnotdetainourselveswithStalin’searlyyears,for theydonotcontributeanythingtoanunderstandingofhislaterattitudesandworldview.’ Iu.Zhukov, InoiStalin (Moscow:Vagrius,2003),p.8.


struggle and institutional empire-building. In observing the failure of the Commissariat of Nationalities to provide an adequate power base, he anticipates Harris’ contribution on Stalin’s next post, as General SecretaryoftheParty.

The idea that Stalin used his position as General Secretary to build a network of loyal political clients has long held a central place in our understanding of his rise to political supremacy. It has also shaped our senseofwhythesystemevolvedintoapersonaldictatorship,andhowthe systemworked,suggestingthatideasdidnotmatterasmuchasruthless political manipulation behind closed doors. James Harris’ study of CentralCommitteearchivesshowsthattheSecretariatplayedanimpor - tant role in Stalin’s rise, but not as we have commonly understood it. HarrisarguesthattheSecretariatwasbarelyabletocopewithitstasksin the assignment and distribution of cadres. There is little evidence to suggest that Stalin was able to use it to build a personal following. The SecretariatwasneverthelessinvaluabletoStalin–asasourceofinforma- tion on the needs and wants of Party officialdom. In particular, he encouraged the common distaste for intra-Party democracy in order to harassandfrustratehisrivals,tolimitthedisseminationoftheirideas.In this way, the Secretariat played a critical role in Stalin’s rise to power, thoughnotasthesourceofthepersonalisticdictatorshipwhichemerged in the 1930s. A substantial part of Party officialdom voted for him because they felt he served their interests. Harris observes that they werelesssurethathedidwhenheimposedtheimpossibletargetsofthe First Five-Year Plan and the command-administrative system emerged. However,havingthemselvesunderminedintra-Partydemocracyandany prospect of questioning the ‘Central Committee Line’, there was little theycoulddo.

Whilenewlyreleasedarchivalmaterialsonthe1920shaveyettoattract muchscholarlyattention,thereisalreadyaconsiderabl ebodyofworkon Soviet politicsinthe1930s.W ecan nowtracethestepsbywhichStalin achievedasteadyconcentrationandpersonalisationofpower.Fromthe protocolsoftopPartyorgansandothermaterials,wecanseeindetailthe steady decline in the consultative aspects of policy-making which char- acterisedthe1920s.WeknewthatPartycongressesandconferenceswere increasinglyrare,asweremeetingsoftheCentralCommittee.Themeet - ingsthemselvesceasedtoinvolveanydiscussionofpolicy,butappearto havebeenorchestratedtopublicisemajorpolicys hifts.Wehavelearned thatthePolitburostoppedmeetingformallybythemiddleofthe1930sas powershiftedtoaninformalcoteriearoundStalin.Thelettersandother notes they exchanged has shown us that even with this group, relations were changing in the 1930s. The friendly informality that characterised


the ir excha nges with Stalin in the early 1930s was replaced with a dis- tin ctly sycophan tic to ne a decade late r. While the re is evid ence of debat e and disag reeme nts with Stalin in the early thirties, withi n a few years his word had beco me law . More sinister evid ence of the entrenc hment of perso nal dictators hip is his inc reasing relianc e on the People’s


Comm issariat of Internal Affai rs (NK VD) as an instru ment of rule. This picture of the concentration of personal power can be misleading, however, if taken in isolation. The contributions to this volume examine the nature of Stalin’s power, but without losing sight of the context in which it was exercised. Even Khlevniuk, who most emphatically asserts the vastness of Stalin’s dictatorial powers, observes that neither in the early 1930s nor later in the decade could Stalin act alone. His inner circle and others close to the centre of power retained some influence and autonomy (though Getty and Khlevniuk, for example, disagree on just how much influence and autonomy they had). Nor could Stalin decide every matter of policy. His interventions were decisive, but there were substantial areas of policy that he left to others. Though Stalin’s power was great, he could not always translate his ideas into action. Political and social structures were not soft putty for him to mould to his will. Stalin may have been an extremely powerful dictator, but he may not have felt as though he was, for his personal dictatorship took shape against a backdrop of revolutionary change, economic crisis, bureaucratic chaos, and a fear of enemies.

In his contribution on Stalin as ‘Prime Minister’, Arch Getty criticises those who regard the ‘decline’ of formal decision-making structures as synonymous with the accretion of total power by Stalin. Rather, Getty sees the emergence of a decision-making process similar in key respects to a cabinet, which Stalin, as the ‘Prime Minister’, dominated. The reduction in regular, formal meetings constituted what he calls the ‘normalisation of the Politburo’ as it adjusted to the great increase in decision-making in a centrally planned economy in the midst of a crash program of rapid industrialisation and collectivisation. Meetings were streamlined and made more frequent. Most issues were decided without discussion by m ean s o f a vo te (oprosom). Members of the Politburo were responsible forkeycommissariatsandareasofpolicy,thusretainingsubstantialpower basesandinfluenceoverdecisions.Considerableinfluenceoverdecision - makingwouldalsohavebeenretainedbythoseindividualsandinstitutions 26 thatprovidedinformationonthebasisofwhichdecisionsweremade. 25 SeeOlegKhlevniuk’scontributiontothisvolume.

26 Such as the Council of Peoples’ Commissars, the Council of Labour and Defence, Commissariats and their commissars (including members of the Politburo, the Planning Commission, experts and advisors, temporary and permanent commissions


Rieber, Khle vniuk, and R. W. Davies sha re Getty’s view tha t in areas where St alin too k an int erest, he dominat ed polic y-making abso lutely. His views were rarel y que stione d. Particu larly in the later 1930s , m any of those around St alin came to fear autonomo us action, and merely tried to anticip ate the le ader’s prefe rences. Whe re Stalin dominat ed polic y, he could exhib it both flexibi lity and dogma tism. Ri eber’s second cont ribu- tion to this vol ume pro vides a nuanc ed analysis of the apparent par adox es of St alin’s se curity policy , show ing wh ere Stalin learned from his mista kes and wh ere his idea s remained unchange d. In refere nce to intra ctable issues of eco nomic polic y, such as the func tion of m oney in a soci alist econo my, R. W. Davies observes St alin’s flexibi lity and abili ty to learn from experi ence, but he also point s ou t occ asions on whic h Stalin abjectly failed to anticip ate the dis astrous consequen ces of major decisions , such as the impa ct of swingeing gra in coll ections in 1931 and 1932. Kh levniuk, in his cont ribution, refers to Stalin’s pro pensity to shift his posit ion in the face of such disasters as ‘crisis pra gmatism’ .

Whe re Stalin did not activ ely intervene in polic y, others filled the voi d. Workin g with St alin’s corre spond ence from his months on vacation in the mid-193 0s, Getty obse rves the large number of decisio ns (89 per cent) taken by the Politburo without St alin’s par ticipatio n. R. W. Davies’ work on agric ultural policy cont rasts Stalin ’s detailed manag ement of grain procu rement cam paigns with his relative lack of interest in livest ock issues. Sarah Davies’ contribu tion shows not only Stalin ’s ext raordinary perso nal influe nce over film producti on, but also his desire to have a reliable lieut enant to realise his will , as well as the great difficu lty of making ind ividuals and ins titutions respo nd effective ly to his will. Clearl y, there existed coheren t structure s that allowed the syst em to functi on in his abse nce. Those structure s served to impleme nt the dicta - tor’s orders, but they coul d also act as a constrain t on Stalin ’s freedo m of actio n.

The idea that St alin and the Sov iet leadership had to cont end with relative ly autonom ous ins titutions and groups is not new. In the 1950s, historians obse rved that techn ical spe cialists and m anagers did not always


behave in way s the regime wante d. In the 1970s an d 80s , socia l histo ri- ans obse rved that society was not a blank slate eithe r, but only since the opening of the archi ves have we had the opportun ity to stu dy in depth the

established by the Politburo, and so on). G. M. Adibekov, K. M. Anderson, and L. A. Rogovaia (eds.), Politbiuro TsK RKP(b)-VKP(b). Povestki dnia zasedanii, 1919–1952:Katalog,3vols.(Moscow:Rosspen,2000),I,pp.18 –19.

27 DavidGranick, ManagementoftheIndustrialFirmintheUSSR (NewY ork:Co lumbia UniversityPress,1954);JosephBerliner, FactoryandManagerintheUSSR (Cambridge, Mass.:HarvardUniversityPress,1957).


workings of institutions and officials higher up the administrative hier- archy. In this volume, Khlevniuk observes the strength of bureaucratic self-interest, or, as Stalin would have known it, ‘departmentalism’ (vedomstvennost’). Commissariats, planners, control organs, regional Party organisations, and other institutions were constantly angling to promotepoliciesfavourabletothemandtolimittheirobligations,fight -


ing amongst each other where their interests conflicted. This can be viewed as an important source of Stalin’s power, given that he was viewed,andacted,assupremearbiter,butStalin’spersistentfrustration with ‘departmentalism’ suggests that he considered it anything but a sourceofstrength.

In spite of his uncontested position and immense political power, it seemsthatStalinneverfeltentirelysecure.Thefailuretocontaininstitu - tionalself-interesthassomethingtodowiththis,asdidtheconstantfear of war and of the infiltration of foreign enemies. Rieber’s chapter on Stalin as a foreign policy-maker makes a compelling argument that beneaththesurfaceofzigzagsandcontradictionsinSovietsecuritypolicy layStalin’senduringfearaboutthevulnerabilityoftheSovietborderlands inthecontextofwhathewasconvincedwouldbeaninevitablewarwith the capitalist world. Nor can the Great Terror (1936–8) be understood exceptasaresponsetoStalin’sinsecurity.Inhischapteronthechanging imageoftheenemyinthethreeMoscowshowtrials,ChaseshowsStalin at his most powerful and powerless, shaping and directing popular opi- nioninamassiveanddevastatingcampaigntounmaskhiddenenemies, while lashing out at chimerical enemies who were largely the product of hisownconspiratorialmentality.

How much did Stalin’s dictatorship change after the Terror? We still know almost nothing about the period from the curtailing of the ‘mass


operations’ in late 1938 to the Nazi invasion in June 1941, and only somewhat more about the structure of the dictatorship in the Second World War. The post-war period, often labelled ‘High Stalinism’ has generated morework and debate. As the label indicates, many historians arguethattheperiodfrom1945–53markedtheapogeeofStalin’spersonal dictatorship,hispowerreinforcedbyterrorandvictoryinwar,imposedat


theexpenseofinstitutionalcoherence. Othershavequestionedtheimage of the disintegration of political structures in the post-war period,

28 SeealsoPaulGregory(ed.), BehindtheFac¸adeofStalin’sCommandEconomy:Evidence fromtheSovietStateandPartyArchives (Stanford:HooverInstitutionPress,2001). 29 OneoftheveryfewworksonthisperiodisHarris,‘TheOriginoftheConflict’. 30 See for example, Milovan Djilas, Conversations with Stalin (London: Hart-Davis,





Recent archival research has tempered this debate somewhat. It has become clear that Stalin was feeling his age after the war and began to reduce his work schedule. The Council of Peoples’ Commissars, renamed the Council of Ministers in 1946, was given almost exclusive controlovereconomicissues,andsomepoliticalissues,suchas nomenk-latura appointments, were passed to other organs within the Central


Committeeapparatus. WhileStalin’sinvolvementinday-to-daydecision- makingdeclined,hecontinuedtokeepacloseeyeonthings,intervening


occasionally and often violently. His interventions remained decisive, but his withdrawal from day-to-day decision-making only strengthened institutional coherence and intensified struggles for power and for his


favour. Khlevniukarguesthat Stalin’spersonaldictatorshiphadnever challenged institutional coherence. Though his power was limitless, the complexity of decision-making had ‘consistently and inevitably reproduced elements of oligarchical rule’. Put simply, Stalin had always neededaninnercirclewithclosetiestostrongbureaucraticinstitutions. According to Khlevniuk, Stalin’s power was at its height in his role as arbiter of conflicting institutional interests. His semi-retirement in the late 1940s made that role more difficult, and he was more inclined to resort to violence in his occasional interventions. In response, his inner circle adopted mechanisms of collective decision-making on the basis of which the system was able to work smoothly without him when hedied. While thenatureofStalin’spowerhasbeenaconstantpreoccupation ofscholars,untilrecently,fewstudieshavepaidseriousattentiontoStalin asaMarxist.Onlyin2002didasystematicstudyofhispoliticalthought 35 appear. Heistypicallyviewedasthequintessentialpragmaticpolitician, interested primarily in power for its own sake, and only superficially

pp.298–301.AlsoRogerPethybridge, AHistoryofPostwarRussia (London:Allenand Unwin,1966);RobertConquest, PowerandPolicyintheUSSR (London:Macmillan, 1961).

31 In StalinEmbattled,WilliamO.McCaggwentsofarastoarguethatStalin’spowerwas challenged by these groups. See also Timothy Dunmore, The Stalinist Command Economy: The Soviet State Apparatus and Economic Policy, 1945–1953 (London: Macmillan,1980);Hahn, PostwarSovietPolitics.

32 Yoram Gorlizki, ‘Ordinary Stalinism: The Council of Ministers and the Soviet Neo-patrimonialState,1946–1953’, JournalofModernHistory 4(2002),705–9,715. 33 Yoram Gorlizki and Oleg Khlevniuk, Cold Peace: Stalin and the Soviet Ruling Circle,

1945–1953 (Oxford:OxfordUniversityPress,2004).

34 IuriiZhukov,‘Bor’bazavlast’vrukovodstveSSSRv1945 –1952godakh’, Voprosyistorii 1 (1995), 23–39; O. Khlevniuk, ‘Sovetskaia ekonomicheskaia politika na rubezhe 1940–1950-xgodovi‘‘DeloGosplana’’’, Otechestvennaiaistoriia 3(2001),77–89. 35 ErikvanRee, ThePoliticalThoughtofJosephStalin (London:RoutledgeCurzon,2002).


committed to Marxist ideology. In public heinvoked Marxistprinciples cynicallyandrepresentedhimselfasatheoristtolegitimatehispower.His dismissive attitude to these principles is evident in the many ways in which he apparently distorted and abandoned them when political exi- gency required. He is widely accused of having betrayed the original Marxist ideals in favour of inegalitarianism, social conservatism, and, especially, Russian nationalism, described by Carr as ‘the only political



Oneoftheadvantagesoftheavailabilityofnewarchivalsourcesisthe lighttheyshedonthisquestionofStalin’srelationshiptoideology.Ifone accepts the argument above, one would have expected Stalin to invoke Marxistlanguageinpublic,butnotinprivate.Yetwhatisstrikingist hat even in his most intimate correspondence with Molotov, Kaganovich, and others, Stalin did in fact continue to employ Marxist concepts and


frameworks. As Pollock points out in this volume, the USSR ‘did not


keeptwosetsofbooks,atleastonideologicalquestions’. Itappearsthat adherencetoMarxismwasmorethanjustasourceofpoliticallegitimacy for Stalin. But what was the nature of his Marxism? Marxism itself is a diverse and in some respects inconsistent body of ideas. Which of these didStalindrawon?Howdidhisideasevolve?Andwhatwastherelation - ship between the ideology and his political practice? Several of the con- tributorstothisvolumeaddressthesequestionsdirectly.



Stalin’s political thought. He has carried out extensive research in Stalin’sunpublishedpapers,especiallyhislibrary.WhatdidStalinread? How did this influence his thinking? Van Ree’s research shows that his (non-fiction) library consisted of overwhelmingly Marxist works, which


hecontinuedtostudyandannotateuntiltheendofhislife. VanRee’s conclusionisthattheseideasmatteredtoStalin,andthatheremaineda committedMarxist,ifMarxismisdefinedinitsbroadestsense.

In his contribution to the present volume, van Ree grapples with the problem of the alleged Russification of Marxism under Stalin. He dis- agreeswithaprevailingperceptionthatStalinfundamentallyadaptedand


distorted Marxism to suit Russian conditions. Instead he concurs with suchscholarsasLeszekKolakowskiandAndrzejWalickithatStalindidnot

36 Carr, TheRussianRevolutionfromLenintoStalin,p.170.

37 Lih et al. (eds.), Stalin’s Letters to Molotov; R.W. Davies et al. (eds.), The Stalin– KaganovichCorrespondence.

38 SeealsoJ.ArchGetty, TheRoadtoTerror:StalinandtheSelf-DestructionoftheBolsheviks, 1932–1939 (NewHaven:YaleUniversityPress,1999),p.22.



substantially modify basic Marxist tenets. Van Ree goes much further than his predecessors in tracing the influences upon and evolution of Stalin’s thought. Ideas such as ‘revolution from above’, ‘socialism in one country’,orthecontinuingneedforastrongstateandfortheflourishingof nationsundersocialismwerefarfromStalinistinnovations.Allhadante - cedents in the thinking of Marx or his interpreters (including Engels, Vollmar,Bauer,Kautsky,Lenin),or,insomecases,otherWesternrevolu - tionary traditions (such as Jacobinism) which themselves influenced the followersofMarx.Onlytheextremechauvinismandanti -cosmopolitanism of the post-war years are difficult to reconcile with Marxist thinking, yet eventhesehadanti-capitalistovertonesconsistentwithaMarxistapproach. It was precisely because Marxism was so elastic, encompassing such a varietyofsometimescontradictorytendenciesthatStalinwasabletoreject themoredemocratic,liberalstrandsinfavourofthosewhichseemedmost compatiblewithRussian/Sovietdevelopment.VanReeconcludesthatthe Westernrevolutionarytraditionwasitself‘morepermeatedwith‘‘Stali nist’’ elementsthanwewouldliketothink’.Stalinsimplyelevatedmanyofthese elementstothestatusofdogma.

Several authors follow van Ree in taking Stalin’s Marxism seriously. Alfred Rieber, however, reminds us that the young Stalin’s journey to Marxism was not as straightforward as its description in the official cult biographies discussed in David Brandenberger’s chapter. Rieber casts doubt on Stalin’s claim to have become involved in underground Marxist groups at the age of fifteen. In the rich frontier situation of Georgia, the adolescent Stalin absorbed a variety of other intellectual influences: populism, nationalism, as well as a specifically Georgian nationalist-inclined strain of Marxism. He was also drawn to romantic literaturewithitsvividdepictionsofheroesdefendingthepoor.Allthese influences may have contributed not only to the obvious nationalist currents in his thinking, but also to the less obvious romantic, populist interpretationofMarxismtowhichhewasattracted.

It is this ‘Bolshevik romanticism’ which David Priestland emphasises. HischapterdrawsourattentiontotensionswithinMarxism -Leninismand howtheseplayedoutinStalin’sownthinkingintheperiod1917 –39.He distinguishesbetweenMarxism’s‘scientisticanddeterministicside’andits ‘more voluntaristic and romantic side’. While the former accentuates the roleofeconomicforces,technique(tekhnika)andsoon,thelatterfocuses

42 LeszekKolakowski,‘MarxistRootsofStalinism’,inR.Tucker(ed.), Stalinism:Essaysin HistoricalInterpretation (NewYork:W.W .Norton,1977),pp.283–98;AndrzejWalicki, MarxismandtheLeaptotheKingdomofFreedom (Stanford:StanfordUniversityPress, 1995),ch.5.


on the active role of the proletariat, of politics and consciousness. Although, like many other Bolsheviks, he oscillated between these two approaches, Stalin seems to have been most consistently attracted to the ‘quasi-romantic’viewwithitsemphasisonheroismandwill.

ThisvoluntarismleftastrongmarkonStalin’sattitudetomassmobi - lisation, which is examined in several of the contributions. Priestland highlights how the leader’s populist, anti-bourgeois outlook made him a strong advocate of unleashing worker activism, particularly during the Cultural Revolution. In the later 1930s, he continued to stress the importance of ideological mobilisation of what were now more often termed‘thepeople’,forexample,duringtheStakhanovitecampaign.

Stalin’s conviction, highlighted by Priestland, that ‘the production of souls is more important than the production of tanks’ explains his con- stant attention to cultural matters, which Sarah Davies examines in her chapteronStalin’sroleaspatronofcinemainthemid -1930s.Sheshows howStalindevotedanextraordinaryamountoftimetowhathedescribed as ‘helping’ to turn Soviet cinema into a truly mass art, capable of mobilising the people for the goals of socialism. Not only did he offer financial support and promote the prestige of cinema, but he also parti- cipatedactivelyinthemakingoffilms,tryingtoensurethattheyconvey suitableideologicalmessagespackagedinanentertainingway.

Mass mobilisation was one important dimensionof the GreatTerror. DebatesabouttheTerrorhavetendedtofocusonmattersofpowerand security (see above). While these must of course be paramount in any explanation,theyshouldnotovershadowtheideologicalissues.VanRee has suggested that Stalin’s Marxist convictions led him to believe in thecontinuedexistenceofaclassstruggle,andthatthisbeliefshapedthe 43 formthattheterrorassumed. Thequestionofbeliefisacomplexone,but whatisabundantlyclearisthatStalinrecognisedthepotentialoftheterror tomobilisethepopulationagainstrealorimagined‘enemiesofthepeople’ 44 andforStalinandtheSovietstate. SarahDaviesnotesthatStalinwasparticularlyconcernedtoshapethe image of the internal and external enemy in films. Like films, the show trials served as powerful didactic tools. Bill Chase’s chapter reveals the extent to which Stalin participated in the staging of the trials, both in Moscow and in the provinces. These performances provided an oppor- tunityforthecarefullyorchestratedconstructionofthreatstothepublic. Stalin was personally involved in the crafting of these threats, which changed markedly over the period 1936–8, as did the intended

43 VanRee, PoliticalThought,pp.124–5.


audience. In 1936, the threat was defined as oppositionists turned enemy agents and terrorists, whose only aim was to seize power. The audience for this trial was primarily Party members. By 1937, the message had become more populist: the threat was now from Party officials who were engaging in terrorism, espionage, and wrecking in order to overturn the Soviet system and restore capitalism. This was designed to mobilise the ‘little people’, ordinary Soviet citizens, to unmaskthe‘enemiesofthepeople’–scapegoatsforeconomicfailures. In 1938, the threat, and the audience, had turned truly global – a conspiracyofrightistsandTrotskyistswereallegedlyintentondismem - beringtheUSSRwiththeassistanceoffascistandcapitalistpowers.

InStalin’smind,theuncoveringofsuchavastconspiracyhighlighted theneedforagreaterfocusontheMarxist-Leninisteducation(vospitanie) ofcadres.PriestlandarguesthatStalinattributedtheideologicalcontam - ination of cadres to an excessive focus on tekhnika at the expense of politika. Henceforth ideas were to assume a much higher priority. The

Short Course in Party history of 1938 was designed to be a primer in thetheoryandpracticeofMarxism -Leninismtoinspireandinstructthe intelligentsia,andtopreventthemfromgoingovertotheenemy.

Stalin was sensitive to the limited appeal of the Short Course for the ‘masses’,however,appreciatingthatdifferentapproacheswererequired fordifferentaudiences.Inhischapter,DavidBrandenbergerarguesthat theStalincul t–oneofthemoststrikingfeaturesofStalinism –waspart ofamobilisationalstrategydirectedprimarilytowards‘themasses’.The cultappearstobeagrossaberrationfromsocialistideals(althoughvan ReehasarguedthateventhishadantecedentswithinMarxistthought), and many historians have interpreted it as a symptom of Stalin’s psy-


chological need for self-aggrandisement. While not denying that this may have played a role, Brandenberger maintains that Stalin himself waswellawareoftheproblematicstatusofthecultofpersonalitywithin Marxism.Hejustifiedthephenomenonasaneffectivewayofappealing to ordinary workers and peasants for whom a heroic, biographical narrative was more inspiring than undiluted Marxism-Leninism. So whilehedeliberatelyremovedfromthedraftofthe ShortCourse sections whichfocusedtoocloselyonhisownbiography,heallowedtheproduc - tion of a separate Stalin biography for the ‘simple people’. This finally appeared relatively late, at the end of 1939, partly because of the ideological and political turmoil of the 1930s. In Stalin’s mind, the focus on personality was not incompatible with Marxist-Leninist


teachings:‘thetoilingmassesandsimplepeoplecannotbeginthestudy of Marxism-Leninism with Lenin’s and Stalin’s writings. They should startwiththebiography’,heremarkedin1946.

Far from abandoning Marxism, Stalin remained committed to the ideology and to its dissemination amongst Soviet citizens. This was equally true of the post-war years which are often associated with Stalin’s turn to extreme Russian nationalism. As van Ree has pointed out, the stress on nation in this period never replaced the emphasis on class. In his last years, Stalin spent much of his time intervening in academic disputes, from philosophy to genetics and linguistics. Ethan Pollock questions traditional assumptions that these interventions were simply‘theultimateravingsofadyingmegalomaniac’,partofacampaign tointimidatetheintelligentsia,anattempttoencourageconflictamongst his colleagues or to heat up the Cold War. Instead they represented Stalin’sconcernwiththehealthofideologyandSovietscience.

Stalin recognised the existence of an ideological crisis in the post-war era.Hesoughttotacklethisbyreinvigoratingabodyoftheorywhichhe apparently recognised had become dogmatic. If Soviet science were to flourish,asitmustwiththedevel opmentoftheColdW ar,thenMarxist theory must be used creatively. Only then would scientific truths be uncovered.Hisforaysintolinguisticswereapparentlyintendedtocurtail theMarristmonopolyoverthediscipline,andtoencouragediscussionof otherapproaches,withStalinclaimingthatMarxismhadtodevelopand changeovertimeifitwastoremainrelevant.Likewisehismeetingswith politicaleconomistsaimedtostimulateagenuinelyfreshapproachtothe long-awaited textbook, rather than one which simply regurgitated Marxist-Leninistcliche´s.Theproblem,ofcourse,wasthatStalin’sinter- ventions tended to generate confusion rather than real debate, as every- onewaitedforanauthoritativeanswerfromonhigh.Thecrisiswasthus deepenedratherthanresolved.

How is our image of Stalin changing following the opening up of the archives? We have only just begun to digest the extensive new materials alreadyreleased,andmorearelikelytofollow.Muchworkremainstobe done on both the nature of Stalin’s power, and the significance of his ideas.Therelatedquestionofhispoliticalpractices,touchedoninsome of the contributions to this volume, also requires more systematic


study. What is already clear is that the new materials do not paint a black-and-whitepictureofeitheranunbridledtyrantintheunprincipled 46 Sheila Fitzpatrick offered some initial thoughts on the question of how to approach


pursuitofpoweroranembattledleaderreactingtouncontrollableforces. Stalin emerges as a far more contradictory and complex figure. As a leader, he ruthlessly destroyed his political rivals and built an unrivalled personal dictatorship, yet he was never secure in his power. He was obsessedwiththedivisionoftheformalstructuresofpower,butincreas - ingly worked only in small informal groups. He wanted to delegate responsibilities, but never entirely trusted those who worked for him. He strove to be at the heart of every major political decision, and in the processdirectedsomepolicymattersingreatdetail,whileutterlyignoring others.Hewasaperceptivethinker,butalsocapableoffailingtoseewhat was right in front of him. He was genuinely driven by ideology, but flexible in his tactics. He was in some respects a conventional Marxist, but aggressively promoted the nation and the leader cult. He sought to disseminate Marxist ideas as a means of encouraging activism, but his methods often succeeded only in stifling initiative. Stalin’s personal influence on the development of the Soviet Union was extraordinary, yethedidnotoperateinavacuumandhisambitionswereoftenthwarted. Thestudiesthatfollowexplorethesecomplexitiesandcontradictions.

totheconference‘Stalin:Power,PolicyandPoliticalValues’,Durham,January2003. Seealsoher‘PoliticsasPractice.ThoughtsonaNewSovietPolitic alHistory’, Kritika 1(2004),27–54.



Stalin as Georgian: the formative years

Alfred J. Rieber

‘Thedevilknowswhat’sinourheads.’ AGeorgianProverb. ‘ThePersiansarebutwomencomparedwiththeAfghans, andtheAfghansbutwomencomparedwiththeGeorgians.’ APersianProverb Stalinandhisenemiesappearedtoagreeaboutonesourceofhisidentity asapoliticalman.‘IamnotaEuropeanman’,hetoldaJapanesejournal - ist, ‘but an Asian, a Russified Georgian.’ Trotsky cited Kamenev as expressingtheviewsoftheCentralCommitteein1925:‘Youcanexpect anything from that Asiatic’, while Bukharin more pointedly referred to


Stalin as the new Ghenghis Khan. Although they employed the term Asiatic to mean different things, their point of reference was the same. Stalin was born, raised, educated, and initiated as a revolutionary in a borderland of the Russian Empire that shared a common history and a long frontier with the Islamic Middle East. In this context, borderland refers to a territory on the periphery of the core Russian lands with its own distinctive history, strong regional traditions and variety of ethno- cultural identities. In a previous article, I sought to demonstrate how Stalinasamanoftheborderlandsconstructedasocialidentitycombining Georgian, proletarian, and Russian components in order to promote

TheresearchforthischapterwasmadepossiblebyagrantfromtheResearchBoardofthe CentralEuropeanUniversity.IamgratefultoBarryMcLoughlinforinvitingmetodeliver anearlierversionattheInstitutfu ¨rOsteuropa¨ischeGeschichtederUniversita¨tWien. 1 LeonTrotsky, Stalin:AnAppraisaloftheManandHisInfluence,2ndedn.(London:Hollis

and Carter, 1947), pp.1, 2, 417, 420. After the Second World War Maxim Litvinov attributedStalin’sinabilitytoworkwiththeWesttohisAsiaticmentality.VojtechMastny, ‘TheCassandraintheForeignCommissariat:MaximLitvinovandtheColdWar’, Foreign Affairs 54(1975–6),366–76.EvenBeria,accordingtohisson,claimedthatStalinhad PersianbloodandcomparedhimtoShahAbbas.SergoBeria, Beria,MyFather (London: Duckworth,2001),pp.21,284.


specific political ends including his vision of a centralised, multicultural 2 Sovietstateandsociety. Oneaimofthepresentessayistorefinethisperspectivebyinterpreting thesouthCaucasianborderlandasafrontiersocietywhereduringStalin’s earlyyearsboundarylinesbetweenculturalfieldswerecrossedandblurred 3 resultinginadynamic,interactiveprocessofchange. Asecondandrelated aimistorevisitthefirsttwenty-twoyearsofStalin’slifeonthebasisoffresh archival material in order to illustrate how the cultural milieu of the Georgian borderland influenced his evolution from seminary student to professionalMarxistrevolutionary.Inthecourseofthisanalysisitwillbe necessary to expose his efforts to conceal or distort his rights of passage alongthisunusualtrajectory.

There were four features of the South Caucasus frontier society that played a significant role in Stalin’s construction of his persona and the evolution of his political perspectives. Elements of all four may be found in other borderlands of the Russian Empire but not in the same formorinteractivecombination.Theyare:1)lengthytraditionsofrebel - lion, conspiracies, and protest movements against foreign and domestic enemies exhibiting both social and ethno-religious, and later nationalist components; 2) kaleidoscopic patterns of population settlement and displacement that intermixed numerous ethno-religious groups within changing political boundaries; 3) multiple channels of external cultural and intellectualcurrents that permeated the region; 4) complexinterac- tionsamong craftsmen,workers,peasants,andintelligentsiaofdifferent ethnic groups, some still rooted in highly traditional societies, that were entering revolutionary movements during a period of rapid industrial growth.

Throughout the South Caucasus a long history of the clash of empires, foreign conquest, and occupation gave rise to traditions of resistance and rebellion in which the Georgians featured prominently. Theylivedonanancientandcontestedfrontierbetweengreatempires. They had their own ancient state tradition, and periodically they were ablebytheirowneffortstothrowoffforeigndomination.Intheprocess, theyacquiredtheattributesofawarriorsocietyandearnedareputationas

2 AlfredJ.Rieber,‘Stalin:ManoftheBorderlands’, AmericanHistoricalReview 5(2001), 1651–91.

3 For a recent attempt to summarise and synthesise the large literature on frontiers are Alfred J. Rieber, ‘Changing Concepts and Constructions of Frontiers: A Comparative Historical Approach’, Ab Imperio 1 (2003), pp.23–46. For a revisionist work on the AmericanfrontierthathascomparativeimplicationsseeJeremyAdelmanandStephen Aron,‘FromBorderlandstoBorders:Empires,Nation-States,andthePeoplesinbetween inNorthAmericanHistory’, AmericanHistoricalReview 3(1999),814–41.



fiercefighters. MostoftheGeorgianlandshadbeenpartoftheRussian Empire for almost eighty years when Stalin was born, though some districts to the south and southwest had been annexed only after the Russo-Turkish War of 1878. Peaceful integration had not proceeded smoothly.Throughoutthenineteenthcentury,periodicmanifestations of anti-Russian sentiment broke to the surface in rebellions and con-


spiracies. T he s pirit o f r esist ance w as a m ajor t hem e i n G eorgian folklore and the romantic revival in literature in the mid-nineteenth

century that so deeply affected the young Soso Dzhugashvili. The cult ofviolenceintheSouthCaucasuspermeatedthewholerangeofsocial relations from the traditional tribal societies to urban youth. At one extreme, the masculine code of warriorhood and the blood feud pre-


vailed within the tribal regions to the north of Georgia. At the other extreme,urbanandruralviolenceduringtherevolutionof1905andits aftermath reached higher levels in the Caucasus than elsewhere in the



Astride a strategic isthmus, the South Caucasus was exposed to fre- quent invasions, migrations, deportations, and colonisation that pro- duced the second major characteristic of this frontier society, its complex multicultural texture. No other borderland of the Russian Empire contained such a mix and variety of ethnic, religious, and tribal societies. It was no wonder that as political parties began to make their appearanceintheregion,thecentralquestionthatpreoccupiedallofthem was the national question. From early childhood, Soso Dzhugashvili was exposed to the cross-currents of ethnic interaction. A scant thirty kilo- metrestothenorthofStalin’sbirthplaceofGoristrechedthetribalregions

4 For general treatments see W . E. D. Allen, A History of the Georgian People from the BeginningDowntotheRussianConquestintheNineteenthCentury (NewYork:Barnesand Noble,1971);DavidMarshallLang, TheGeorgians (Ne wYork:Praeger,1966);David Marshall Lang, The Last Years of the Georgian Monarchy, 1658–1832 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1957); Cyril Toumanoff, Studies in Christian Caucasian History (Washington, D.C., Georgetown University Press, 1963), and M.M. Gaprindashvili and O.K. Zhordaniia (eds.), Ocherki istorii Gruzii v vos’mi tomakh (Tblisi:Metsniereba,1988),IIIandIV.

5 RonaldGrigorSuny, TheMakingoftheGeorgianNation,2ndedn.(Bloomington:Indiana University Press, 1994), pp.71–2, 82–5, 119–20, 166–7, I.G. Antelava, ‘Obostrenie klassovoi bor’by, razvitie i rasprostranenie antikrepostnicheskoi ideologii nakanune otmenikrepostnogoprava’,in OcherkiistoriiGruzii,V,pp.170–83,217–24.

6 M.O. Kosven et al. (eds.), Narody Kavkaza (Moscow: Akademiia Nauk, 1960), pp.297–304; Sh. Inal-Ipa, Abkhazy. Istoriko-etnograficheskie ocherki (Sukhumi: Abgosizdat,1960),pp.276–8;I.L.Babich, PravovaiakulturaAdygov(Istoriiaisovremen-nost’), avtoreferat (MoscowStateUniversity,2000),pp.13–14,n.21.Iamgratefultothe authorforbringingthissourcetomyattention.

7 AnnaGeifman, ThouShaltKill.RevolutionaryTerrorisminRussia,1894–1917 (Princeton: PrincetonUniversityPress:1993),pp.23–4.


of the Abkhazians, Svanetians, and Ossetians, traditional societies still


deeply rooted in a feudal-patriarchal way of life. Gori itself had a mixed populationofGeorgians,Armenians,andRussians.Thetownwaspoised, asitwere,betweentwoverydifferentworldsofthepatriarchal,tribal,and theurban,earlyindustrial.Accordingtocontemporaryaccounts,thesocial structure, architecture, and urban grids of the three main cities – Tiflis, Batumi,andBaku–thatformedthetriangleofStalin’searlyrevolutionary


activity were split along ‘European’ and ‘Asian’ lines. Stalin bore the stigmaofthisdiscoursethroughouthislifealthoughonatleastoneocca - 10 sionhesoughttoturntheepithetof‘Asiatic’tohisadvantage. ThethirdcharacteristicoftheSouthCaucasusasafrontiersocietywas theexistenceofmultiplechannelsofcommunicationthatfilteredexternal ideasintotheregion.Inthesecondhalfofthenineteenthcentury,access to European thought produced a variety of cultural hybrids. The most powerful currents came from Russia channelled either through local ecclesiastical schools like those Stalin attended or else through small numbers of Georgian students who studied in Russian universities, mainly St.Petersburg.Asecond,narrower channel ledtoinstitutions of higher learning in Central Europe (including the Kingdom of Poland) andthenontoth el argerf i el dof Europeasawhole.Th ei mpo rtati onof Russian literature, both in the original and in translation, and Russian translations of European works of literature, history, and politics fed these currents and left an indelible imprint on Stalin. Major Russian writersfromPushkinandLermontovtoMarlinskiiandTolstoyidealised aspectsofCaucasianlifealthoughtheydisplayedanambiguousattitude


toward Georgians. Thus, the resentment felt by so many Georgian nobles and intellectuals toward the administrative and bureaucratic insensitivities of Russian officials and clerics, shared by the young Soso Dzhugashvili, was mitigated by appreciation and even admiration of Russianhighculture.

8 Many students from Ossetian schools came to study in Gori and Tiflis. M.D. Lordkipanidze and D.I. Muskhelishvili (eds.), Ocherki istorii Gruzii v vos’mi tomakh (Tbilisi:Metsniereba,1988).

9 K.N. Bagilev, Putevoditel’ po Tiflisu (Tiflis, 1896), pp.26–9 and especially Vasilii Sidorov, PoRossii.Kavkaz.Putevyezametkiivpechatleniia (St.Petersburg:M.Akifievi I. Leontiev, 1897), pp. 142–5, 163, 270, 274, 276, 595–6, 598, 605. There were similar descriptions of Stalin’s home town of Gori. Ibid., pp. 460–77 and A. Azhavakhov, ‘Gorod Gori’, in Sbornik materialov dlia opisaniia mestnosti i plemen Kavkaza (Tiflis, 1883), cited inRossiiskiigosudarstvennyiarkhivsotsial’no-politicheskoiistorii(henceforthRGASPI) f . 7 1 , o p . 1 0 , d . 2 7 3 , l . 1 4 . 10 Seen. 47. 11 Cf.SusanLayton,‘RussianLiteratureaboutGeorgia’, SlavicReview 2(1992),195–213. SeealsoKatyaHokanson,‘LiteraryImperialism,Narodnost’andPushkin’sInventionof theCaucasus’, RussianReview 3(1994),336–52.





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