Russian History: Stalin

With a 4.3% GDP growth rate, Russian economy ranks ninth in the world today according to a recent economic study. The country also enjoys a fairly low population of citizens living below the poverty line standing at a manageable 13% of the total population and a 5% unemployment rate as at august 2012 (Dunlop, 2006). The IMF considers the Russian economy is a developed one. The country has a steady supply of natural resources like oil, coal, natural gas, and precious metals that weight well on export. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country has overtime gone through radical and significant changes (Haidt, 2000). Russia has managed to move from a centrally focused economy to a better placed market-based plan of the economy that encompasses a globally integrated economy and overall market. Russian macroeconomic policies helped the country to recover the recent international financial crisis in 2008-2009 that forced many countries go into deep debts, increased unemployment and extreme inflation of goods and services (Stein and Liwag, 1993).   

Its newest policies of opening up the economy for foreign investors have paid off in a tremendous way (Haidt, 2000). This new open market structure is a complete turnaround for Russia which not so long ago lived under tyranny from pioneer leaders like 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 momentarily, short-lived gain (Bodenhausen et al., 2005). 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 following: territory and population (Stein and Liwag, 1993). It is by all means 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 exist 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). 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). 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 a 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).

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). 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). 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 Stain’s extremism.

Any reaction that involves the emotions concerning a very sudden loss of anything valuable (in this case territory which leads to loss of authority) can be fatal since a leader may get extremist behavior. 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 the 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). Individuals tend to react more emotionally to consequences that are surprising in nature and unexpected. Vivid information can therefore be as a result 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). Other aspect that can cause a sense of urgency in a person 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). There is a theory that proposes that a loss is better than a gain (Hoffmann and Kotsonis, 2000). 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 very fatal behavior that is more often than not linked to extreme movements (Stein and Liwag, 1993).

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) 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). 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 brings rise hatred at the injustice of the specific loss which can then be modified by extremists to suit their blood quench. Loss can also easily generate fear which in turn accompanies humiliation and shame of the loss (McDermott, 2006). 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). 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). After consolidating his power, Stalin provides a communist model for all preceding events.

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). 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). 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 then Russian Empire (Quinn, 2000).

Stalin spent about 20 years as a full political activist and occasionally got arrested for the same reasons where he got 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). 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. Later in the 1920’s, Stalin was officially the leader of the union. Stalin’s forced agriculture practices cost thousands if not millions of lives as his rapid industrialization program resulted in increasing of productivity in the Soviet Union and imminent growth of the economy but a cost that was far greater than expected (Haidt, 2000). 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). The wipe outs badly depleted the army despite all prudent warnings. This resulted in a bad prepared army that wasn’t 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. However how strong and a tyrant Stalin was, his increasingly paranoid behavior caused him to die of stroke in 1953 having ruled for almost three decades (Bodenhausen et al., 2005).

During his reign, Stalin supported a five year plan project drawn up and enforced by the state commission on planning. This was a full government planning new economic policy put in place to replace the older one instituted in 1921. Running from 1928 to 1932, the new plan set out priorities and targets for almost the whole economy and lays emphasis on the production of capital rather than consumer products. Collective ownership and state owned farms system of leadership was enacted over a range of widespread opposition that was shown significantly through the slaughter of livestock (Bennigsen and Wimbush, 2001). Those  who refused to embrace the new system were brutally murdered by the government (McDermott, 2006). Opposition was fairly high and this led to more than four million people being brutally executed and all their belongings confiscated. Those not executed were sold out as slaves in Siberia. Towards the end of 1930’s, almost 95% of all cultivated land was in state owned farms since this system was properly enforced after the Second World War (Quinn, 2000). This reorganization of the country’s resources with the five year plan had some immense negative consequences. There were industrial draw backs and constant resistance in agriculture where the new systems were being opposed (Dunlop, 2006). Such crude methods including famine, exiles, slavery and death were the measures to catch the members of the rebelion.

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). At the end of the first cycle, humiliation is 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). Insult, feelings of injustice and the consequent anger were revealed after this great loss and blame was later placed on the Russian devastation in neighboring Poland. Urgent responses by Stalin followed shortly after with murder of strikes by forces. After the Russo-Polish war in 1920, the resulting fear of reversion due to threat of another loss and a drawback to earlier levels of subordination to the west was even stronger (Stein and Liwag, 1993).

Since France assisted Poland in the War, this factor affected Russia and inflicted 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 made up another source of the fear of future subordination. The Japanese also posed as a threat (Kahneman and Tversky, 2000). A manifestation of anger and fear caused him to respond urgently 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. Taking his depredations into account, one is left to wonder how the Soviet Society was performed for the following couple of decades after his death. Maybe a combination of several other factors like a reversal of earlier shame and humiliation, injustices recorded by the society, and the ascension to superiority in place of the earlier threat of reversion that collaborated to extend the existence of an inefficient and vicious system of governance. 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).

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). The civil service gained much power and implemented most 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). Religion was adversely affected in Russia as most religious bodies were persecuted in the pioneer years of Stalin’s era (Bodenhausen et al., 2005). 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 fairly 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). In addition to the above mentioned literacy levels were also boosted in all major parts of the country (Kahneman and Tversky, 2000). Free social and medical services were made available to most of the population. Everything and almost all aspects of the society (political, cultural and social life) became monitored by the government. 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). The post-war effect was 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). Military technology greatly developed as the Soviet Union made and exploded he first atomic bomb. This helped to reassert Stalin’s dictatorial rule not only in the region but 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).

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