We explain what Stalinism was, its interests and its characteristics. Also, how this regime came about and how it ended.

Stalinism - Stalin
Stalin’s government was a totalitarian dictatorship that occurred between 1922 and 1953.

What is Stalinism?

Stalinism was a political system implemented by the tyrant Joseph Stalin in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) between 1922 and 1953. Stalin ruled through an absolute dictatorship in which he controlled the legislative, executive and judicial powers, and monopolized industries, land and private property.

The term Stalinism was coined by the Russian Lazar Kaganovich, a politician associated with Stalin, but the dictator did not identify with that nickname and defined himself as a Marxist and a disciple of Lenin, his predecessor in power. However, Stalinism It turned out to be a variety within fascism, rather than a communist or socialist type movement..

Marxism, which emerged in 1840, was a philosophical, political and economic system that was based on the ideas of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels who opposed the capitalist system. Instead, the term Stalinism has been used to describe a political regime based on violence, terror, and murder.

The socialist ideology of Marx and Engels proclaimed that the workers, through the State, should manage the means of production to achieve a classless society. However, Stalin held a different discourse in which, in order to combat the enemies of revolutionary socialism inside and outside Russia, it was necessary to strengthen the state in order to protect the cause. Thus, power became increasingly centralized.

In the late 1930s Stalin launched a bloody repression against whom he considered potentially dangerous and who could prevent the victory of the socialist revolution. By 1939 most of the Bolshevik Revolutionaries of 1917, who brought Lenin and later Stalin to power, had been exterminated and more than ten million people had been sent to concentration camps.

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See also: Russian Revolution

Characteristics of Stalinism

The Stalinist regime was characterized by:

  • Being a totalitarian political and economic system based on some communist foundations.
  • Promote the slogan of “socialism in one country” which alluded to a society without class differentiation within the Soviet border.
  • Create a state with absolute power that monopolized land, private property, banks, services, the forces of production, and even human rights and liberties.
  • Shaping a centralized economy based on the heavy industry of extraction of raw materials over the agricultural industry, which suffered from the suppression of land and private property.
  • Control the media to censor what was not wanted to be made public and spread Stalin’s ideology and show him as the only leader (they called him the great benefactor or father).
  • Repress those who opposed the regime or who was considered a threat, through fear, violence and death.

Origin of Stalinism

Stalinism - Stalin
Stalinism repressed potential opponents with intense military surveillance.

During World War I (1914 – 1918), in 1917 the Russian Revolution took place which consisted of popular uprisings against the monarchical government of Tsar Nicholas II. That monarchy had been noted for its lack of freedom, the repression of all opposition, control of the countryside, and great social and economic tension.

The lack of industrialization and the stagnant social structure increased the poor quality of life, unemployment and hunger, even among the bourgeoisie. Opponents of the tsar were increasing, many went into exile and formed parties in secrecy, such as the Social Democratic Party, which was divided based on two ideologies promoted by its leaders:

  • Led by Vladimir Lenin, they defended the armed struggle to come to power.
  • Led by Gueorgui Plejanov, they defended pacifist rules to come to power, such as elections.
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In 1917 protests were unleashed and the main ones were:

  • The February showdown. The burghers, together with members of the army who were tired of the poor conditions in which they had to fight in World War I, overthrew the monarchy of Tsar Nicholas II and a provisional government was installed.
  • The October Showdown. The so-called soviets made up of the workers, peasants and other workers, together with the Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin, managed to overthrow the provisional government under the banner of the Soviet socialist revolution.

The Bolsheviks began to govern and legislate. However, they did not control all regions of the country. Opponents made up mostly of Tsarists, Mensheviks and foreign countries who feared the spread of Bolshevik revolutionary ideas united in a counter-revolution.

A civil war broke out that ended in 1923 with the victory of the Bolsheviks.. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) emerged, which took many years of repressive policies to achieve economic growth.

In 1923 Lenin suffered serious health problems until he died in 1924. At that time, Russia continued to be a country with economic scarcity and backwardness. Stalin assumed power after disputing it with Leon Trotsky and it was during his nearly 30-year tenure that he succeeded in making Russia one of the world’s leading powers.

Industrialization was the basis of Stalinist Russian socialism and it consisted of the reconditioning of old factories and the construction of a strong heavy industry to obtain raw materials. He promoted the increase in large-scale agricultural production with mechanized farms, leaving the production forces in the hands of the State (which also received the payment of taxes by the peasants).

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Stalin’s government was characterized by excessive military vigilance in search of saboteurs or opponents, to such an extent that he repressed with excessive imprisonment and executions. It is estimated that the number of victims is around two million citizens.

end of stalinism

Stalinism - Stalin
In 1953, after Stalin’s death, the dictator’s crimes were denounced.

In 1950 Stalin’s health began to decline. presenting with memory lapses, exhaustion and a general state of decay. During the last three years of his rule, he was haunted by paranoia that someone would try to assassinate him after taking advantage of his failing health. This attitude increased the repressions, especially among his closest circle, such as the committee of doctors who treated him and his advisers.

In 1953 the private secretary disappeared without trace and the head bodyguard was executed. Terror stalked the staff closest to Stalin. After a few days of dying Stalin Died March 5, 1953from a cerebrovascular attack caused by hypertension.

After Stalin’s death the new Russian secretary Nikita Khruscov (1894 – 1971) initiated a political process called decentralization in which the crimes committed by the late dictator against the Soviet state and the communist party were denounced.

In 1991 the Soviet Union fell and was renamed the Russian Federation. with Boris Yeltsin as president. For several years, before the change of presidents, the decentralization process oscillated between advances and setbacks. However, researchers continued the debate about the number of victims of Stalin’s government and concluded that he was one of the bloodiest dictators in history.

Continue with: Cold War


  • “Stalinism” in New world encyclopedia
  • “Stalinism” in Britannica
  • “Stalinism” in Royal Spanish Academy
  • “Stalinism” at Economipedia
  • “Russian Revolution (1917)” in Visual Nucleus

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