Saturday, June 20, 2015

Evaluating Josef Stalin of Russia: Does he Deserve the Epithet " The Great"?

Can Stalin be deserving of a Higher Status in World History
Stalin with Churchill and Roosevelt

Was Stalin 'Great' ?
The Concept of ‘Great’ and Stalin
In the west it is fashionable to criticize Stalin. Most of the stress is on his executions and vast prison camps that he set up in Russia. But as always there are two sides to a coin and most of the good that Stalin did gets washed away, but in Russia he is a nostalgic figure and Russians from all walks of life, communists to the anti-communists consider Stalin a great Russian leader. The word ‘great’ has a different connotation. Akbar the Moslem ruler who ruled India is also considered great, yet he caused the deaths of innumerable Hindus in wars and battles. In the siege of Chittor, Akbar amassed a force of 60,000 soldiers that besieged a Hindu force of 8000 in Chittor (1567). The Moghul army prevailed and occupied the Chittor in February 1568. After the battle 30,000 Hindus were massacred by Akbar. Heads of his enemies were then displayed on towers erected throughout his empire. Yet he is given the title ‘The Great’.
The Rise of Stalin
Stalin seized power after the demise of Lenin in 1924. He had a one point agenda then to remain in power, but he also wished to take Russia forward. From Medieval times Russia was known as the laggard in Europe as far as development was concerned. Peter the great made the first attempt to modernize Russia when he got foreigners to help build ships in Russia. Stalin also wanted to change the image of Russia. This he did with centralized planning and application of Marxist theory as understood by him. Obviously in such a situation dissent had no place and Stalin was ruthless in suppressing dissent.
Stalin and the economy
Stalin must be given credit for the upward lift of Russian economy and laying the infrastructure of an Industrial environment. During 1928-1940, the Russian economy grew 5 times its original size. He was the man who turned an agrarian country where the farmers just toiled on the land to a global superpower. Stalin must be given credit for formulating the famous 5 year plans for economic development that propelled Russia as a rival to the USA on the global scene.
Stalin and Defeat of Germany
His contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany is glossed over. The fact is the USA and Great Britain would never have won the war, but for Stalin. to deny this is a perversity of history. He was the man who organized the fight against Hitler and the Russians paid a heavy toll in blood with over 20 million deaths. Without Stalin facing the might of the Nazis, the war was already lost by England and USA. The tide turned after the battle of Stalingrad, which is a testimony to the iron will and resolve of Stalin. One act of his that demonstrates his iron will is his famous parade on 23 November 1941. The German war machine had reached just 30 miles from Moscow. Stalin was advised to shift to a secure place east of the Urals. History records that Stalin refused and bolstered the heart of the Russian army with a parade in Red Square where he took the salute of soldiers moving to the front.
Stalin's Red Army systematically decimated the German armies in Eastern Europe as far west as Berlin. At the Potsdam Conference in July 1945, when an American mentioned this achievement, Stalin replied matter-of-factly that Czar Alexander had gotten to Paris. This shows his thinking. He was a man who was out to make Russia the no 1 power in the world. That was the reason he never gave out his true intentions while maintaining an affable exterior when he met western diplomats. Most Russians across Russia have a soft corner for Stalin as they realize what Stalin accomplished. His negative deeds are rarely dwelt upon.
Stalin's Balance Sheet
The USA and the West cannot preach about Stalin and freedom. George Bush and Lyndon Johnson unleashed wars to further a megalomania dream in Vietnam and Iraq. Yes! He was a brutal dictator, but the end result is a historical balance sheet as to the outcome. Nobody can deny the concentration camps and the mass imprisonments of his opponents. In that respect this 5ft 5 inch man has little to answer for these acts. But his pluses have to be weighed against his negative deeds. In case a balance sheet is drawn one can safely say that the pluses outweigh the minus.
Ghost of Stalin Re-emerging in Putin
Stalin did commit excesses as has been brought out by western writers., but he ensured that Russia was a great power that could challenge the USA. In Russia now his ghost is resurrected and many Russians long for the great power status that Stalin gave them.
V Putin realizes the contribution of Stalin and all his efforts are to undo what he perceives as a historical aberration: the breakup of the Soviet Union.
The Balance Sheet
Russia could only be held together by a man of the calibre of Stalin. He was not ‘Great’, but one can say he was almost close to it. The balance sheet as far as Stalin is concerned has more plusses than minus. The great expert on Russia George Kennan acknowledged that Stalin was a great statesman with a comment and a rider "Stalin's greatness as a dissimulator was an integral part of his greatness as a statesman,"