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Stalin: The Ruthless Killer

By James Donahue

The world thinks of Hitler as perhaps the worst mass killer of all time, yet ignores the fact that Germany’s arch enemy during the war years, Joseph Stalin, probably surpassed Hitler’s killings by the millions. Nobody knows the true number, but estimates stand at about 40 million deaths. He even introduced his own "Final Solution" against the Jews which led to the execution of hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews.

Hitler’s final death count has been calculated at 30 million.

Because Russia became an ally of the forces battling against Hitler and the Axis powers in that war, historians have tended to overlook Stalin’s ruthlessness.

Stalin was born to a peasant couple in Gori, Georgia, in 1879. His name was Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvivi, but he changed it in later years, after becoming involved in the Soviet revolution. The name Stalin meant "man of steel."

Few people knew that Stalin was deformed from a case of smallpox as a child. It left his face scarred and his left arm slightly deformed. Some say his personality, which included a quest for greatness and respect and a cruel sense against all who opposed him was the result of the teasing he endured from other children because of his deformaties.

Joseph’s mother, Ketevan Geladze, was a devout Russian Orthodox Christian and she wanted her son to become a priest. She enrolled him in church school and he earned a scholarship to Tiflis Theological Seminary in 1894.

Those were critical times when Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky were involved in stirring the people into rebellion against the rule of Tsar Nicholas II and promoting the new concept of Communism. Stalin dropped out of seminary, joined the Social Democratic Labor Party and worked full-time for the revolutionary movement. He participated in organizing labor strikes and raised money through robberies, extortion and even kidnappings.

The Bolshevik Revolution began in February 1917 and by October the tsar was ousted and the Communists were in power. Stalin was appointed to the new office of general secretary of the Communist Party. When Lenin died in 1924, Stalin moved into power after forcing Trotsky into exile out of the country. Thus began Stalin’s 30-year reign of terror.

Anyone suspected of opposing Stalin was arrested, tried and sentenced to death. Sometimes they were just executed. There was an extensive purging among the party elite and beyond. He established collective farms and factories. Millions of Russians died in forced labor and starved during famines caused by rebellions among the workers. All resistance was met with swift and deadly response. Millions of people were exiled to the Gulag (labor camps) or were executed.

As Hitler was rising to power in Germany and the threat of war was growing, Stalin signed a nonaggression pact with Hitler and Nazi Germany, thinking that he was keeping Russia safe from a German attack. But when Hitler double-crossed Stalin and launched the 1941 blitzkrieg the Soviet Army was caught off guard. Stalin’s purges had left his government and military devoid of key leadership. It was only through the amazing resilience of the Russian people that a resistance was generated and the German Army stopped at Leningrad (later named Stalingrad).

After this, the Russian Army was advancing west toward Germany while the Allied forces were invading the western front and advancing from the east. After the war, Stalin actively advanced the borders of the Soviet Union to include various countries in Eastern Europe. This brought about the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) designed to stop the Communist advance.

Stalin died on March 5, 1953. While he left a trail of death of millions the man also turned Russia into a world superpower.