Friday, December 30, 2011

Cult of Personality (2)

Joseph Stalin:
Stalin is perhaps the finest example of a cult of personality. His cult of personality is considered to be the first and the most influential and the measuring rod for all other similar cults.

Stalin satisfies all five conditions(refer to my previous article) for a cult of personality to flourish:The Soviet Union was dominated by workers who were controlled by a small ruling elite in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union(CPSU),The majority of the Soviet Union's citizens were illiterate,Stalin came to power in the chaotic aftermath of Vladimir Lenin's death,Stalin had many loyalists in the CPSU giving him enormous political capital and Stalin was very charismatic.

Stalin was a originally a low ranking member of the CPSU and played many roles in the Russian Revolution mainly in the Soviet invasion of Georgia, he kept a low profile which helped him rise through the ranks and eventually become the third most powerful man in the USSR after Lenin and Leon Trotsky. Lenin had decreed,in his last testament, that after his death the USSR was to be ruled by a council of three people(Leon Trotsky,Stalin and Gregory Zinoviev) but Stalin used his supporters to suppress the testament and through a combination of muscle power and cunning was able to become the general secretary of the CPSU(Effectively the most powerful post in the USSR).

Once in power Stalin began to consolidate his power by expanding the powers of the Soviet secret police(The NKVD) and eliminating anyone he considered a threat to his power culminating in the Great purge which lasted from 1925 to 1940 and resulted in the death of many CPSU members,army generals,ordinary Soviet citizens and even two heads of the NKVD who were considered to be dangerous.

When the purge ended,Stalin became the absolute ruler of the USSR and to reinforce that power,he created an enormous cult of personality around himself.He named many cities,towns and villages after himself(including the famous city of Stalingrad),he also accepted many grand titles to his name (e.g., "Coryphaeus of Science," "Father of Nations," "Brilliant Genius of Humanity," "Great Architect of Communism," "Gardener of Human Happiness," and others) and in many paintings and statues he was made to look tall and powerful(He had many artists shot when they did not depict him 'right') when he really was only around 5 ft 5in. He also rewrote Soviet history to make it look like he played a major role in the revolution and he downgraded Lenin's part in it to look like he was only a small part of it.

During World War II Stalin's cult of personality reached new levels with his name being included in the Soviet National Anthem and Stalin became the subject of many films,poems,songs,books etc which credited him with God-like qualities and suggested that he had single handedly won the war.Images of him appeared everywhere from government offices to small back streets.

After his death his successor Nikita Khruschev denounced Stalin and his policies and above all his Cult of Personality which was dismantled soon after Stalin died.Stalin's style of leadership was named Stalinism and inspired many other world leaders such as Mao Zedong,Enver Hoxha,Nicolae Ceausescu and Kim-Il-Sung. Stalin's cult of personality has amazed many historians and politicians and is considered to have been the measuring rod for all other cults.

Though Stalin's cult of personality is definitely impressive, even it pales in comparison to the next cult of personality I shall write about with which I shall conclude my articles on the Cult of Personality.