Russian History: Stalin

With a 4.3% GDP growth rate, the Russian economy ranks ninth in the world today according to a recent economic study. Statistics show that 13% of the total population in Russia live below the poverty line. The country rates 5% of unemployment (Europa Europa Publications, 2012, p. 260). The IMF considers the Russian economy a developed one. The country has a steady supply of natural resources like oil, coal, natural gas, and precious metals that have a significant importance on Russian exports. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country has experienced radical and significant changes (Haidt, 2000, p 78). Russia has managed to move from a centrally focused economy to a market-based one that provides a globally integrated economy and overall market. Russian macroeconomic policies helped the country to recover from the recent international financial crisis in 2008-2009 that forced many countries go into deep debts, increased unemployment rate and extreme inflation of goods and services (Stein and Liwag, 1993, p. 230)

Its newest policies of opening up the economy for foreign investors have paid off in a tremendous way (Haidt, 2000, p. 60). This new open market structure is a complete turnaround for Russia, which not so long ago lived under tyranny of Joseph Stalin. This paper aims at seeking an understanding of Stalin’s homicidal behavior through analyzing the nexus displayed in his personal autobiography and history as well as Georgia-Russia’s history. The paper analyzes the close relationship between Stalin’s tendency for mass violence activities and territoriality, which poses a lot of concern for scholars in international circles. A relationship in a social psychological form and basis is provided by the ephemeral or shortly, short-lived gain (Bodenhausen et al., 2005, p. 53). It creates a basis for shame and humiliation, anger brought about by injustice perceptions, and the fear of going back to a condition of subordination in relation to the West. For an ephemeral gain to exist, there must be a severe threat of a looming occurrence or loss of one or all of the territory and population (Stein and Liwag, 1993, p. 45). It is regarded as a disaster, and a period of uttermost societal gain precedes it, which was previously preceded by a season of complete subordination.

Looking at the political biography of Joseph Stalin, there is a clear demonstration of ephemeral gain in two cycles following each other consecutively. More empirical help exists in the form of his open and direct expression of shame for the territorial loss to Japan as a result of the Russo-Japanese clash (McDermott, 2006, p. 35). Other forms of distinct evidence are Stalin’s open antagonism and open resentment towards the Poles that includes murderous behavior signifying defeat and loss of territory. His murderous acts to four north Caucasus groups of individuals extended the interpretation (Kahneman and Tversky, 2000, p. 35). The four groups include the Ingush, Karachai, Kalmyks, and the Chechens that were deported at the onslaught of the Second World War. Mass violence is characteristic behavior of an extremist and is the topmost revelation of inhumane cruelty that defies morality and codes of human conduct. Stalin’s willingness to kill massively and Hitler’s mass execution of millions of European Jews is certainly a hallmark of political extremism (Kahneman and Tversky, 2000, p. 345).

For authority to exist in a particular location, territory and territorial boundaries must be created. Therefore, any threat towards territory or an actual loss of a territory results in an immediate reduction of the authority space that a dictator would not dream about. However, territorial loss is important since apart from providing internally displaced persons, it creates a deep sense of resentment to those individuals displaced from the lost territory. As territory represents a location’s security, similarly a territorial loss will inspire emotions of a state insecurity (Dunlop, 2006, p. 76). The beginning of territorial loss leads to even more loss in the future. Therefore, a slight loss of territory would make any leader paranoid into declarations of war to alleged state enemies within and without and consequently start a campaign to fight them mercilessly. The fear of going back to a previous position of subordination can be a very powerful driving force to any state particularly where territory and territorial loss are concerned (Bodenhausen et al., 2005, p. 57). As this paper will later provide proof, it is the same fear of a setback along with other combinations of associated effects of the short-lived or ephemeral benefits that caused Stalin’s extremism.

Stalin faced the possibility of losing his country’s territory and eventual his authority because of the threat that was posed by countries, such as Germany. In this context, a diachronic model has a basis of authority and power loss that is preceded by certain benefits and gains; this previously is followed by a season of subordination. The space of authority or power is socially treated and understood as part of the community, which the government influences, and power genuinely extends. Emotional pain and feeling of satisfaction can be increased significantly by an experience of surprise (Kahneman and Tversky, 2000, p. 89). Individuals tend to react more emotionally to consequences that are surprising in nature and unexpected. Vivid information can be because of deep emotions linked to surprise. A feeling of urgency is imparted by these intensities in emotions. Therefore, urgency and emotional intensity are directly linked and the former is demanded without necessarily contemplating and introspecting any associated reflexive actions (Dunlop, 2006, p. 46). Other aspect that can cause a sense of urgency is anger. In a previous case where one had experienced loss, a person may describe the recent circumstance with reference to the earlier case (Bodenhausen et al., 2005, p. 45). Some theory proposes that a loss is better than a gain (Hoffmann and Kotsonis, 2000, p. 34). This means that an entity that has been lost is better valued than the gains in an entirely identical entity. When the asymmetrical relationship between gains and losses is added up to vividness, surprise and emotional aggressiveness compared to previous and current losses, then the losses can be quite consequential. Such losses lead to fatal behavior that is more often than not linked to extreme movements (Stein and Liwag, 1993, p. 289).

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Research study that is scientific in nature shows that loss has a relationship with anger. Similarly, anger is an emotional consequence of injustice. Aristotle (1991, p. 75) defined anger as the longing followed by hurt or pain for actual revenge on a crime affecting an individual when the crime is clearly undeserved. It is not only a response to any undeserved insult, but a consequence felt in defense of another person and oneself as well. Angry people are more likely to blame others for their unfortunate plights (Quinn, 2000, p. 56). Anger causes not only a reason to retaliate, but also to remove whatever caused it to happen. Therefore, loss or threat of loss causes an extremist to seek for means to redress the particular loss and also direct the anger to innocent ‘bystanders’ who are not involved in triggering it by any means. Therefore, a total loss or threat of looming loss promotes hatred because of the injustice of the specific loss, which can be modified by extremists to suit their actions. Loss can also easily generate fear, which in turn accompanies humiliation and shame of the loss (McDermott, 2006, p. 46). Additionally, there might be an existence of the usual desire to keep up the feeling of joy and ecstasy, or praise of victory vitiated by expected loss showing that the previous gain was short lived or ephemeral in all ways (Dunlop, 2006, p 56). A deep desire to evade or reverse a drawback of the ephemeral may highly motivate an extremist response. Looking at the governance and life history of the mass murderer of the Soviet Union communist leader, Joseph Stalin, the etiology presented clearly explains the origin of his extreme behavior in the soviet society (Kahneman and Tversky, 2000, p. 34). After consolidating his power, Stalin’s reaction to the looming threat portrayed as a leader who favored the communist model.

Among the most powerful rulers and feared dictators of the world, Stalin was the overall leader of the Soviet Union for almost three decades. His terrorist acts and homicidal behaviors caused suffering and demise of millions of innocent lives (Bodenhausen et al., 2005, p. 48). However, his reign brought about the defeat of Nazism in Eastern Europe.

Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili Stalin was born in Georgia (part of the Russian empire by that time) in1879. He had a humble beginning and was brought up in modest circumstances by his father who was a cobbler (McDermott, 2006, p. 46). At a local theological seminary, Stalin studied theology and Marxist literature. He chose to drop out and start a political career when he became highly involved with revolutionary movements against the Russian Empire (Quinn, 2000, p. 215).

Stalin spent about 20 years as a full political activist and was occasionally arrested for the same reasons he was exiled to Siberia. Even though, he did not play a vital role in the forceful take over, Stalin eventually rose all the way through the party rankings to the secretary general of the communist party in 1922 (Stein and Liwag, 1993, p. 290). Although the post was not really significant at that time, it gave him a platform to slowly build up his support base. After the death of Lenin in 1924, he promoted himself to the top most seats and slowly outdid his opposition. In 1924, Stalin became the leader of the union. He introduced a Five-Year Plan through a new economic policy that brought about a centralized command economy. This changed Russia from an agrarian economy to a highly industrialized economy. Despite the fact that it brought positive changes to the economy, the shift disrupted food production and led to the Soviet famine between 1932 and 1933 that caused massive deaths (Haidt, 2000, p. 860). In addition, there was an increased level of poverty and the population suffered greatly all through the great terror in the 1930’s when Stalin wiped out other parties that opposed him. This resulted in the mass murder of thousands and a huge number of exiles to slave labour camps (Hoffmann and Kotsonis, 2000, p. 56). The wipeouts badly depleted the army despite all prudent warnings. This resulted in a bad prepared army that was not ready for the Nazi attacks on the Soviet Union in 1941. Although the Soviet Union was severely affected, Stalin managed to lead the country to a triumphant victory that led to the end of Nazism. The life losses were huge, but that did not concern Stalin. After the Second World War, the Russian Empire controlled most of Eastern Europe within the nuclear age. Stalin died in 1953 because of cerebral hemorrhage (Bodenhausen et al., 2005, p. 60)

During his reign, Stalin started a five-year plan that was implemented by the state commission on planning and intended to shift the economic reliance on agriculture to industries. The new economic policy was put in place to replace the older one that was instituted in 1921. Running from 1928 to 1932, the new plan created new priorities and put emphasis on production of capital rather than consumer products. The new plan introduced Collective Ownership and State Owned farms Systems despite widespread opposition from the populace depicted through the slaughter of livestock (Bennigsen and Wimbush, 2001, p. 76). Those who refused to embrace the new system were brutally punished by the government (McDermott, 2006, p. 94). More than four million people were brutally executed, and all their property was confiscated. The lucky ones were sold out as slaves in Siberia. By the end of the Second World War, almost 95% of all cultivated lands were state owned since this system was properly enforced (Quinn, 2000, p. 56). This reorganization of the country’s resources, through the five-year plan, had both positive and negative consequences. Some of the negative consequences of the plan were exiles, slavery, and death (Dunlop, 2006, p. 47).

The Political Biography of Stalin

The political biography of Stalin is an evidence of the ephemeral benefit presented in two cycles. Additionally, its aftermath is revealed in the form of emotional expression through shame and humiliation, injustice perceptions, the threat of a setback and reverse process to conditions of earlier subordination and anger from loss and threat of loss of territorial authority in relation to the west (Hoffmann and Kotsonis, 2000, p. 74). At the end of the first cycle, humiliation was evident when Russia gave part of its territory to Japan. This went down in history as the first defeat of a European power by a non-European opponent during the modern times (Bodenhausen et al., 2005, p. 60). Feelings of injustice, insult and the consequent anger came after the great loss, and blame was later placed on the Russian devastation by neighboring Poland. Stalin responded by initiating military strikes that caused deaths. After the Russo-Polish war in 1920, the resulting fear of reversion due to the threat of another loss and a drawback to earlier levels of subordination to the west was even stronger (Stein and Liwag, 1993, p. 300).

Since France assisted Poland in the War, Russia was affected leading to the fear of a looming subordination to the western countries. Hitler’s rise to power in the early 1930’s and a freshly formed Germany brought up another source of fear for future subordination. The Japanese also posed as a threat (Kahneman and Tversky, 2000, p. 78). A manifestation of anger and fear made Stalin respond to the threat targeting even his own party, the Communist Party, in the period of the Great Terror. His behavior displays a vital instance where the above factors combined caused political extremism that can be explained using the theory of ephemeral gain. To further demonstrate ephemeral gain is the rise of Islamism, fascism and extreme nationalism behavior coupled with differential applicability of a number of pathways as mentioned above. Considering his depredations, one is left to wonder how the Soviet Society was performed for the following couple of decades after his death. The communistic system of governance introduced by Stalin could have been caused by a combination of several factors, such as shame and humiliation because of defeat and the suffering he had passed through from previous regimes. Up to date, some former Soviet members still mourn the death of the dictatorial era since it gave Russia back its glory (Bodenhausen et al., 2005, p. 50).

Various negative aspects cropped up during the Stalin era; education and content of media and any public information had to pass under strict government censorship and control. There was also severe restriction of freedom of movement. Any kind of criticism of all public policies if unauthorized by the government was strictly banned. Russia became a police state with the secret police being a main part of the state control (McDermott, 2006, p. 74). The civil service gained much power and implemented most the of government proceedings. This system of controls by the state led to a notorious and powerful emergence of bureaucracy commonly referred to as the “new class” (Bennigsen and Wimbush, 2001, p. 52). Religion was adversely affected in Russia as most religious bodies were persecuted in the pioneer years of Stalin’s era (Bodenhausen et al., 2005, p. 62). Nevertheless, this violence on religion subsided and was cleverly substituted by propaganda in schools and public facilities.

In conclusion, Russia’s history seems more of a fairy tale. It has various highs and lows but eventually ends up with a sort of happy ending. So much has happened to Russian since the Stalin era up to the modern Russia today. In spite of the many negative effects of the Stalin era, some good things came out of the dictatorial period. Industrialization in Russia was accelerated as the production of basic industrial raw materials as well as capital instruments grew at the expense of basic consumer products. Among the main results of the preceding five year plan was the amazing agricultural and industrial development of Siberian USSR, Central Asian USSR and the Urals (McDermott, 2006, p. 80). In addition to the above-mentioned literacy, levels were also boosted in all major parts of the country (Kahneman and Tversky, 2000, p. 76). Free social and medical services were made available to most of the population. The government monitored everything and almost all aspects of the society (political, cultural and social life). Following the war, Russia aimed at stabilizing and reconstructing the almost collapsing economy and other aspects of the state particularly Stalin’s assertion of his dictatorial authority (Bodenhausen et al., 2005, p. 62). The post-war effect was the implementation of a fourth five-year plan, which focused on deep industrial development. Apart from other insecurities facing the Soviet Union, the state’s agricultural sector suffered great loss due to a massive drought. These activities proved that collective agriculture to be inefficient and insufficient and could not be relied upon. However, the industrial sector was getting along just fine (Dunlop, 2006, p. 49). Military technology greatly developed as the Soviet Union made and exploded the first atomic bomb. This helped to reassert Stalin’s dictatorial rule not only in the region but also in the whole world. This put to a halt the season of free interaction in the Soviet Union brought about by the efforts of war. Civilians and soldiers as well who had freely interacted with the Germans and their allies were captured and then forcefully deported to Siberia and Central Asia. Stalin in his entire authoritarian rule instituted a fresh round of anti-Semitic executions murdering many Jewish authors (Bodenhausen et al., 2005, p. 62). The famous Night of the Murdered poets represents the execution of 13 Soviet Jews in 1952 because of Stalin’s anti-Semitism that started in 1948. The people who were captured and murdered were falsely accused of treason and espionage. They were murdered by torture and isolation. These issues were a manifestation of the threat of attack that was initiated by Nazi Germany on Soviet Russia, which led to the formation of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee.


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