Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin (1878-1953) was Lenin’s successor as undisputed leader of the Soviet Union. Born in Georgia in a poor family, he joined Lenin’s Bolshevik party. He played a minor role in the November 1917 Bolshevik seizure of power but subsequently rose in influence and power by virtue of his administrative talents and unquestioned obedience to Lenin. In 1922 Lenin recommended him to the post of the party’s General Secretary. This placed Stalin in a position to rally around himself loyal cadres with the help of which he defeated his much abier and better known rival, Leon Trotsky.
By the end of the 1920′s Stalin was in complete command of the Soviet party and State apparatus which enabled him to carry out an ambitious and very costly program of “collectivization” of agriculture and industrialization. He surrounded himself with toadies and demanded something in the nature of personal deification. Progressively paranoid, in 1937-38 he carried out massive “purges” in which perished through executions or confinement to concentrations camps millions of people.
Convinced that Communism could spread globally only as the result of another world war, in August 1939 Stalin signed a so-called “non-aggression” pact with Hitler which enabled Germany to attack Poland and then conquer most of Continental Europe. To his shock, Hitler repaid him the favor two years later by attacking the USSR. After immense human losses, the Red Army ultimately broke the back or the German army, enabling Stalin to occupy most of Eastern Europe. He died in 1953 and is today highly regarded by the Russian population as someone who hatd made Russia a world power.