The old Bolsheviks

At first sight, it seems unlikely that Stalin was the most successful ruler of Russia in the whole of the 101 years, when taking into account the large amount of the Tsars reforms, in comparison to the amount of people Stalin killed and repressed. However, there are three aspects to success, success in the eyes of the ruler, the Russian people and judgement from outside Russia. In order to ascertain success, it is necessary to consider how the rulers were able to maintain themselves in power, their popularity, their contribution towards economic success and their concern for the welfare of the people.

One aspect of success if how the leaders maintained their power, as well as how they dealt with success. Stalin was a very brutal leader, and this was how he kept the power. Within his time as leader, he put 2. 5 million Russians into labour camps and a further 300,000 more in prison. Additionally, he conducted several show trials of the old Bolsheviks, which not only demonstrated his power, but also got rid of any opponents. Therefore, he could easily maintain his power as anyone who opposed him was either killed, exiled or imprisoned.

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Stalin’s treatment of minorities also demonstrates this, especially the treatment of religious individuals. Within 20 years, 24,700 mosques were destroyed. By 1939, only 1 in 40 churches were still functioning. However, although he maintained his power this way, by 1937, 57% of Russians were still religious. Therefore, his brutality must not have been the only aspect that allowed him to keep the power. Generally, it is accepted that the other leaders were ‘up to their arms in blood. ’ Alexander II, for example, was in power during the Polish Revolt of 1865, where any perpetrators were caught and publicly hanged.

Alexander III, on the other hand, was known as the repressor. To keep him power, he introduced Russification, where Russia returned to traditional values. All textbooks, books published, newspapers and many other types of media had to be in Russian. The Ukrainian language ‘does not exist, never had existed and never will exist. ’ Nicholas II, on the other hand, was in power during Bloody Sunday, the Moscow uprising, Stolypin necktie and Lena goldfields. However, this therefore proves that Nicholas II was poor at maintaining power as he had to constantly assert his power to prevent large scale opposition.

Lenin, however, began to assert his authority without the use of violence with the one party state. However, when opposition increased, he turned to violence, murdering hundreds. However, this was nothing compared to Stalin. Khrushchev, however, maintained his power by his policies. The population was still mostly peasant or working class, and that was who his policies were for. The other thing that needs to be looked at in regards to maintaining power is how the leaders were removed from power. Alexander II was assassinated, which shows poor power.

Similarly, Nicholas II was abdicated, as he lost the support of the army. Later, however, he was murdered. The NEP was dissolved soon after it started as it was seen as unsuccessful. Khrushchev was removed from office as things proceeded to worsen. Therefore, in conclusion, it must be Stalin who was the greatest leader in this respect. He maintained power and stayed in power for the longest out of all of the leaders. Additionally, his rule ended when he died in bed, whereas all other leaders were either killed or removed from office. Therefore, Stalin is the most successful.

Popularity and support from the Russian people also contributed to whether a leader was successful or not. Stalin experienced much opposition, especially amongst the peasantry and killed millions of his own people. However, the success he experienced in the great patriotic war did much to restore some of his popularity. Even dissidents, even the people who had been exiled to the gulag system cried on the news of his death. This therefore suggests that Stalin was extremely popular and was loved by the Russian people. The tsars’ popularity was bolstered by the church and the tradition of the ‘little father.

’ Alexander II was initially popular when introducing the reform of emancipation; however, this popularity fell when emancipation failed to give peasants all of the freedom they wanted. Alexander III was resented by the peasantry due to the return of serf law. Nicholas II was one of the least popular leaders of them all. He was isolated from court due to his son’s illness. However, his popularity did increase following the tercentenary. However, he even managed to deplete this, as he lost all popularity when associated with Rasputin and the new theories that his German wife was in fact a spy.

The communists distorted their popularity with propaganda. However, Lenin was genuinely popular, as people cried when they heard he had died. This was also boosted by deification past 1924. Khrushchev remained to be one of the only leaders that kept the ‘human touch’ and was classified as the most caring. Khrushchev was originally a peasant himself and therefore could relate to the main population. Therefore, when the cult of personality bias is removed, Khrushchev proved to be the most popular due to his popularity with the working classes. However, affection for Stalin was genuine due to propaganda and the longevity of his rule.

Organising the country’s economics was, at the time, a vital part of leadership and seeing as Russia was going through vast modernisation, economic progress was fundamental. Under Stalin, there was a huge, rapid industrialisation programme to bring Russia back into competition with other western countries as when Stalin came to power, he stated that Russia was ‘fifty to one hundred years behind other westernised countries’. Compared to the Wall Street Crash which affected most westernised countries, Russia was progressing rapidly under Stalin.