Georgian Marxist revolutionary and later virtual dictator of the USSR (1928--53). Born in Gori, Georgia, the son of a cobbler and ex-serf. He studied at Tiflis Orthodox Theological Seminary, from which he was expelled in 1899. After joining a Georgian Social Democratic organization (1898), he became active in the revolutionary underground, and was twice exiled to Siberia (1902, 1913). As a leading Bolshevik he played an active role in the October Revolution, and became people's commissar for nationalities in the first Soviet government and a member of the Communist Party Politburo. In 1922 he became general secretary of the Party Central Committee, a post he held until his death, and also occupied other key positions which enabled him to build up enormous personal power in the party and government apparatus. After Lenin's death (1924) he pursued a policy of building "socialism in one country', and gradually isolated and disgraced his political rivals, notably Trotsky. In 1928 he launched the campaign for the collectivization of agriculture during which millions of peasants perished, and the first 5-year plan for the forced industrialization of the economy.
Between 1934 and 1938 he inaugurated a massive purge of the party, government, armed forces, and intelligentsia in which millions of so-called "enemies of the people' were imprisoned, exiled, or shot. In 1938 he signed the Non-Aggression Pact with Hitler which bought the Soviet Union two years respite from involvement in World War II. After the German invasion (1941), the USSR became a member of the Grand Alliance, and Stalin, as war leader, assumed the title of generalissimo. He took part in the conferences of Tehran, Yalta, and Potsdam which resulted in Soviet military and political control over the liberated countries of postwar E and C Europe. From 1945 until his death he resumed his repressive measures at home, and conducted foreign policies which contributed to the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West. He was posthumously denounced by Khrushchev at the 20th Party Congress (1956) for crimes against the Party and for building a "cult of personality'. Under Gorbachev many of Stalin's victims were rehabilitated, and the whole phenomenon of "Stalinism' officially condemned by the Soviet authorities. .
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Joseph Stalin biography
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