Stalin - monster or necessary evil?

Stalin's Russia was strong enough to defeat the irresistible Nazi armies, and to become for the next half-century one of the two superpowers on the world stage. Yet Stalin was a leader who instituted a terror that reputedly sent 10 million people to death. So was Stalin a monster, or a necessary evil for Russia's survival?

Opinions of Stalin

In 1956, three years after Stalin's death, Nikita Khrushchev gave a speech stating that:

'He killed thousands of Communists. He was changeable, irritable and brutal, a very distrustful man, diseased with suspicion. His rule was one of torture and oppression.'

Nikita Khrushchev

That year, when it was finally ok to say what you felt about Stalin, the German writer Klaus Menhert went around asking people what they felt about Stalin. This is what four of them said:

  • "The blood-sucker! Just think of the number of people whose lives he ruined."
  • "Who won the war for us? Who raised Russia from a backward country to the most powerful state in the world?"
  • "Of course, some bad things happened under his rule, but there were a hell of a lot more good things."
  • "He murdered the best of our people because he was determined to be the sole boss."

Revision tip and answer preparation

Revision tip

Look back through the pages in this topic - Stalin - and find the evidence that suggests:

  • Either that Stalin was a necessary evil - cruel, but the genius who was needed to modernise and save Russia.
  • Or that Stalin was an out-and-out monster who achieved little and hurt millions. You will find that there is evidence for both views.

Answer preparation

As part of your revision, think about the arguments and facts you would use to explain:

  1. What the impact of Stalin's rule on the people of the Soviet Union was.
  2. How the Soviet people were affected by the changes Stalin enforced.
  3. Whether Stalin was a good thing or a bad thing for the Soviet Union.

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