Is Stalin the Red Tsar?
It can be said that Stalin’s policies and ideals were similar in some ways to the Tsars of the Russian Dynasty - Is Stalin the Red Tsar? introduction. However, in other areas, they were completely different in the way they operated. It is therefore to some extent that Tsarist Russia was like Stalinist Russia. This essay will plan to compare and contrast between the two societies under the headings of the economic and political decisions that the leader made and the effect the leader had on society and culture.
Of particular importance, this essay will focus on the reforms the two leaders implemented, the cultural and economic shift from agrarian to urban, and the political control the two had over Russia during their respective reign. The shift from an economy and society based on agriculture to one based on industrialization happened in both eras, but the way it is implemented was different by each leader. The Tsar and Stalin were both faced with a largely agricultural peasant-based society when they came into power, the Tsar more so than Stalin.
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The Tsar instrumented industrialization under his finance minister, Witte, who encouraged the growth of Russian industry and tried to attract foreign investors. Despite strong economic growth under Witte, the peasants were taxed heavily, there is inefficiency in production, and the techniques employed in the factories relied on large amounts of foreign capital. With high economic growth, Witte also brought with him the curbing of the power of the Russian autocracy. The people then decided they wanted apart of the booming economy, and attempted to revolt in 1905.
Witte was subsequently replaced. In 1906, Stolypin became the new finance minister and brought the idea of the “carrot-and-stick” method. This was an attempt by the Tsar (through Stolypin) to develop a wealthy peasant class of kulaks, thus preventing another possible revolution. This method saw the promotion of the kulaks (carrot), but also the stick, which was the introduction of military tribunals to counter revolutionary activity. A number of links can then be made to the way that Stalin dealt with these types of reforms.
Stalin was also faced with a peasant-based society, but countered this with rapid industrialization with his five year plans and collectivization, which thus brought about the movement from country to city. Like the Tsar, though through Witte, under Stalin there was a strong emphasis on heavy industry, consumer industry was limited, and the five year plans were often inefficient and ill-planned. Conversely, Stalin attempted to destroy the kulak class that Stolypin, and consequently the Tsar had created, due to ideological differences.
The kulaks were seen as class enemies in Stalinist Russia, but as necessary for power to remain in the Tsar’s hands in Tsarist Russia. This could be seen through the elimination of 15 million kulaks during the period of collectivization alone. Modernization was also seen as the key to cementing the revolution in the USSR, but was feared by the Tsar because it meant the relinquishment of some of his duties. While there were similarities in the economic policies of the two states, there were also substantial differences in the way the economy was run.
There is also a large amount of evidence that the political systems that the USSR under Stalin had, that were similar to the way the Tsar ran Russia. Firstly, both maintained their rule in an autocratic manner, with strong centralized power and power held by both leaders. Both relied on a large bureaucracy to support their power, and both were faced by little political debate. In Tsarist Russia, there was an absence of political debate because of the banning of political organizations.
In Stalin’s Communist Russia, the nonexistence of political debate was due to Stalin’s dictatorial rule, and thus not allowing any opposition that would threaten his rule. One final comparison that is pertinent to distinguishing whether Stalin can be called the “Red Tsar” is the political parties beneath the repressive leaders. Under Tsar Nicholas II, the Dumas had little power. They were merely a way to try to dissolve any revolutionary activity, but were also paid little attention by the Tsar. Pre-Stalin, the Communist Party’s Central Committee and Congress had mainly held the power of the country in their hands.
By the time of Stalin, these groups were largely subservient to Stalin himself. Basically, this gave the two leaders absolute power over the country. The similarities between the two political systems are outstanding. There is one stark contrast between the two regimes in terms of political policy. The Tsar was extremely conservative, with no vision for the immediate future. He was primarily concerned with maintaining his rule, much like Stalin, but his economic policies and political policies were truly evident as a cautious approach to running Russia.
Stalin and his Communist ideals were progressive in their outlook to the future, building socialism through radical change to society. These extreme changes to society were all directed from the top from Stalin. There were also a lot of contrasting views on the views of society in terms of culture for the two regimes. Tsarist Russia was a society that was largely agricultural, backward, illiterate and conservative. The Tsar did not exactly care for his people. However neither did Stalin, to a certain extent.
He didn’t require the people’s support to stay in power, because of the terror he caused, but it was helpful to have support. Society under Stalin was increasingly urbanized, as the peasants moved off the land and into the factory, under the policy of collectivization. Under the Tsar, education was severely limited. It was primarily controlled by the Church. Education under the Soviet State was extended to the working class especially technical education. This increased literacy and gave the proletariat an understanding about what was required of them as a worker.
Religion was used by the Tsar to legitimize his position, through the granting of permission by the Church. In return, he gave them great power of the people. Under the communist Stalin, religion was attacked as it was seen as a threat to the alternative ideology of Marxism-Leninism. These are just a few of the views that conflict regarding culture in the two eras in question. However, there are also some strong comparisons that can be made between Tsarist Russia and Stalinist Russia, on the topic and society and culture. Both societies based their rule on harsh censorship.
Propaganda was strongly used by both, especially by Stalin in the 1930s Cultural Revolution. The position that the Tsar and Stalin placed themselves in are also quite similar. In Tsarist Russia, the Tsar was worshipped and deified, partly because of his position, but mainly because of the power he gave the Church. Likewise, Stalin used the cult of personality surrounding him, and to a lesser extent Lenin, to justify his rule over the USSR. So despite there being a stark contrast between the two regimes in terms of culture, some similarities can be still be made.
In conclusion, the policies and ideals that were used and seen in Tsarist Russia and Stalinist USSR were to some extent similar. In the area of political policy, there were a number of sections that were akin, however a strong difference in the long-term ideology. In terms of economic policy, both wanted to industrialize Russia, but did it in different ways. Finally, in terms of culture in society there are a lot of blatant contrasts between the way the two leaders operated, due to ideological differences, but once more there were some similarities. Therefore, it is to some extent that Stalin is the Red Tsar.