Joseph Stalin was the leader of the Soviet Union, or USSR, from 1929 to 1953. He became the Soviet leader during a period when the country rapidly industrialized.
It was during his reign that Soviet Union became one of the two major superpowers of the world. Stalin lead the Soviet war effort during World War II and his leadership was central in securing the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Joseph Stalin was born in 1878 to a poor family and had a hard childhood. He went to a seminary to gain education for priesthood but became inspired by Marxist teachings. By the early 20th century, he was an active member of the Bolshevik and Marxist factions.
He participated in labor movements and strikes, political agitation, bank heists as well as various other criminal activities to fund the Marxist movement. He was also arrested a number of times and sentenced to prison term in Siberia. By 1912, Stalin had become one of the central figures of the Bolshevik Party.
In 1917, the Russian Revolution took place and the Bolsheviks ousted the monarch to take control of the country. Vladimir Lenin was selected as the first leader of the revolutionary Soviet Union. Joseph Stalin, Lenin’s close aide, was appointed to the powerful central committee.
By the time Lenin died in 1924, Stalin already had enough power and influence to take over the reins of the government. He soon purged all political opposition and assumed dictatorial authority.
Stalin wanted to rapidly industrialize the Soviet Union to bring it at par with the developed world. To this end his government took over most aspects of the economy, including farms. This led to the deaths or exile of millions of farmers while also causing a famine. However, he was able to establish an industrial base for the country.
Stalin was notorious for the persecution and murder of his opponents. He maintained his iron grip on the reins of power by instituting regular purges – shortlisting and killing of people who could oppose him. These included several important leaders of the Communist party, intellectuals, scholars as well as his close aides and friends.
Before World War II, Stalin had signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler’s Germany. This pact guaranteed that Germany would not perpetrate aggression against Soviet Union. Soon after World War II began, Germany broke this pact and launched an invasion of the Soviet Union.
Stalin was completely unprepared for this and the Red Army of the Soviet Union initially suffered many defeats. It was at the historic Battle of Stalingrad in 1942 that the tide was finally turned and Germans were forced to retreat. The battle also marked the turning point of World War II, making the beginning of the end for German forces.
Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill were regarded as the three most important Allied leaders of World War II. Despite ideological differences, Stalin worked with the other two leaders to ensure the defeat of Nazi Germany. Ultimately, it was his Soviet armies that took Berlin and forced the final surrender of Germany.