Stalin and Stalinism

Kevin McDermott

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Communism

Published in print January 2014 | ISBN: 9780199602056
Published online May 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Stalin and Stalinism

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This chapter provides a wide-ranging introduction to the most recent historiographical interpretations of Stalin’s personality, his rise to power and his role in the ‘revolution from above’, the Great Terror, the Second World War, and the ‘High Stalinism’ of the years 1945–53. It contends that a ‘war-revolution model’ is the best way of understanding Stalin’s modus operandi and treats Stalinism as a highly complex, dynamic and contradictory phenomenon that convulsed the lives of millions in a grand historical and revolutionary quest for socialist modernity and national security. While emphasizing the fearsomely repressive essence of the Stalinist state, it is recognized that the system was able to generate more productive and inclusive practices which gained a measure of popular legitimacy among many Soviet citizens. Stalin was undoubtedly a bloody dictator, but to his last days he retained a profound ideological commitment to the construction of a strong communist utopia.

Keywords: communist utopia; dictator; Great Terror; revolution; socialist modernity; Stalin; Stalinism; war

Article.  8981 words. 

Subjects: History ; Social and Cultural History

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