Stalin is at the helm of the largest inland empire that the world has ever known.
He's godlike to the Russian people, the power he wields, it's so unchallengeable that it's hard to find another metaphor other than Godlike to describe it.
Stalin had in some ways transplanted religion. He transferred that to socialism and he had become the god of that paradise.
I think Stalin's brutality does make him one of the most terrifying people in history. You know, he ranks with Genghis Khan and Tamburlaine with these great sort of brutal conquerors. So with Stalin, you just have to look at this man, this extraordinary, exceptional character of such complexity and just say that he was both one of the most successful rulers in history and one of the most appalling.
It's 1936. And Joseph Stalin, the man once exiled to the Arctic Circle by the Russian government, has now achieved almost total control over the country. From his Kremlin headquarters in Moscow, Stalin spends his days plotting new ways to shore up his regime because even now, it does not feel entirely secure. Clearing out his party is one thing, but what about the country at large? Across Russia and its territories, there are countless witnesses to Stalin's failures as leader the Soviet people.
Millions of them lived through the Bolshevik Revolution and the years that have followed and they remember the truth years of economic turmoil, famine and starvation, ruthless law enforcement. Now they must be made to forget. My name is Paul McGann and welcome to Real Dictators, the series that takes you behind the curtain of totalitarian regimes to reveal the hidden lives of tyrants such as Adolf Hitler, Chairman Mao and Kim Jong Il.
In this episode, we return to the Soviet Union to conclude the story of Joseph Stalin, the man of steel whose bloody rise took him all the way from poverty and exile to the Kremlin and the Cold War. This is real dictators. Josef Stalin has eliminated opposition within his circle of advisers and within the Communist Party at large. This murder is clear out is already known as the Great Purge. Now, Stalin intends to do the same on a much wider scale right across the Soviet Union.
After the great purge comes the great terror. Stalin unleashes his dreaded secret police, the NKVD. These predecessors of the KGB were given the job of cleansing the country of anyone who fits Stalin's definition of traitor. Professor Donald Rayfield from Queen Mary University of London is author of Stalin and his hangmen, we have a complete register of all Stalin's visitors to his office.
We know how often they came, how long they came for, and they will shut themselves up together and they go through lists of people and take them with age to be arrested and shot, just text to be arrested.
And then they decide on a prophylactic process that you wouldn't bother to find out about the individual, whether he was dangerous. You would set targets for arrests, though, called the limits in every city, every province had its limits, 5000, 10000 of whom about a quarter, what we shot straight away and the others would go to the gulag.
Simon Sebag Montefiore is an historian and author of the books Young Stalin and the Cult of the Red Tsar.
From the beginning, Stalin decided that he should cull the party by quoter. Bolsheviks did everything by industrial quotas, and when they launched the terror, they literally did so in industrial quotas. So they said in such and such a town, 100000 people should be arrested and deported to Siberia, 50000 people should be put in prison and 20000 people should be executed. Who these people were were to be decided by whoever was in charge of the local secret police and party.
They didn't care who they were. They wanted numbers killed because that's how Bolshevik did things.
There's no deniability for Stalin here, and he doesn't care. He's well beyond the point of needing to justify his behavior. Stalin himself signed the death warrants of those senior enough to merit his personal attention. At each entry in the paperwork had his own rhetorical flourish, he was enjoying it enormously. There are sheets of paper with lists of people sentenced to death. If you were a member of the party, if you held responsible job, you belong to a group where the death sentence had to be certified by members of the Central Committee.
There are 44000 names on which you have Stalin's initials and tick's. And just occasionally he would cross a death sentence off and put 25 years or 10 years and he would add words like scum, prostitute deserves it. So he was going through these lists several hundred a day for eight months, clearly enjoying it enormously. And he and his head of this USJF would get together and think of new places they ought to investigate, like the oil industry. Let's do the oil industry and then they get a list and so on.
Then requests would come in from provincial heads. We've reached our limit. Please, can we have permission to double it? Because all the heads of secret police realize that not doing enough might be fatal, overdoing it would be OK. In the end, it began cannibalistic because chiefs of police would start arresting other secret policemen, be arrested themselves and fall into the same meat grinder and very often seek a peaceful state to the prisoner. You have to understand, if I don't do this to you, they're going to do it to me.
And it's my turn anyway.
Tomorrow, as the man overseeing this carnage, Starlin has passed a point of no return. Stolen by that point is, by any normal standards, a psychopath, an incurable psychopath. There is an earlier remark he scribbled on the last page of one of Lennon's words, that there are only three vices. One is weakness. Second is laziness. And the third is idleness. And therefore, everything else is a virtue that I think is his philosophy. So no concept of God as we would understand it.
The Soviet tyrant doesn't stop with the adult population. He wants to break down to reduce to rubble loyalty to anything or anyone outside of himself. To do that, Stalin attacks the most fundamental human social unit. He turns his great terror onto the family. Dr. Michael Lynch is an historian from the University of Leicester, one of the cleverest, fiendish features, again, of Stalin's propaganda is the use of children. Children were made to see themselves as children of Stalin first and of their parents second.
And if their parents were suspect, they were asked by their teachers to report back. Did your father say something unkind about the Soviet Union that he criticized Comrade Stalin?
Don't worry, children.
Nothing will happen to your parents, but you must let us know. And many kids, as kids will in the top of their teachers, came back the next day and reported. And there are scores, hundreds in the end of stories of children actually betraying their own parents because they were told that Stalin's protection of you requires you to be totally loyal to him and report anything that might damage his reputation.
Steve. The fabric of society strains under Stalin's relentless onslaught. The Soviet Union becomes a terrifying place with a terrified population. Professor Jonathan Brent is author of Inside the Starlin Archives a study of sources from the heart of Soviet government.
Stalin was sending a message and Stalin was bringing everybody into line because every single person in the government knew what was going on. And if you knew that your pal and had everything kicked out of them, then you would behave. And this was a form of enforcing party discipline through fear. Fear is at the heart of it. You are putting fear, distrust into the heart of society and then you can achieve anything. During the Great Terror, at least 700000 people are executed, millions are sent to slave labor camps known as the gulags.
Twenty years after the Russian Revolution toppled the old empire, Stalin has become the tsar of the Soviet Union in all but name. Stalin may be more secure than ever at home, but outside the Soviet Union, a new enemy is rising. Adolf Hitler is the only man who might match Stalin's utter disregard for humanity. Hitler rises to power in Germany on the crest of a wave of violent populism. As well as the Jews and the disabled, Hitler is hell bent on wiping out the communists, he foresees a monumental showdown between fascist Germany and Marxist Russia, two eternal foes fighting it out to the death.
But to the surprise of many in the West in 1939, Stalin announces that he has cut a deal with Hitler. Between them, they will carve up Eastern Europe and create their own spheres of influence. They will not attack each other in Hitler. Stalin sees a man he can do business with. They're painted as men from opposite ends of the political spectrum, but in totalitarianism, the far left and far right can come together. The Nazis are the National Socialist Party, after all.
Dr. Martin McCauley from the University of London is a Russia analyst with the Limehouse Group. Stalin believed Hitler would not attack the Soviet Union. No one has been able to divine why he actually trusted Hitler because Stalin didn't trust anyone, but he trusted Hitler. And even when he was given evidence, multiple evidence that Hitler was going to attack in June 1941, he refused to believe it. He simply refused to believe the intelligence.
Sulin admired Hitler very greatly. You never met him, even though he was invited to Berlin and Hitler was invited to the him, but he had great respect for Hitler. He also had great respect for Germany and what Hitler had done in Germany because he saw Hitler as red leader, the very strong leader. And he had this belief that if the Soviet Union and Germany can come together, work together, then they can conquer the world. And he seems to have forgotten what Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, my struggle that the Bolsheviks were the eternal enemy and had to be destroyed.
He seems to have forgotten all that. Stalin marches on as the Nazis go from victory to victory in Western and Central Europe. There are rumblings that Hitler has designs on the east, its Russian lands that the Führer once. But after the Nazis take much of France in 1940, Stalin believes that the Soviet Union is safe. Surely Hitler won't start a war on two fronts. Professor Donald Rayfield. In summer 1941, Stalin had the first real big shock of his life.
The problem was he had so little intelligence he'd exterminated most of his intelligence officers because they knew foreign languages and were suspicious about gossip. And intelligence did come in that the Germans were really preparing something, that they had 60 percent of their army on the Russian frontier. And he dismissed us all as British disinformation. He thought the British were the unreliable ones, not the Germans.
And so when the firing started, he first forbade the Soviet army to respond. He thought it was some sort of exercise, some sort of provocation. His own military then disobeyed him because they could see what was happening. Tearing up the non-aggression pact, Hitler launches Operation Barbarossa and invades Russia. Nazi tanks plowed towards Moscow in a devastating advance. In the first week alone, the Germans captured more than 100000 men. Out of nowhere, Stalin is facing the fight of his life.
Through June 1941, Hitler's Panzer Army cuts through the Soviet defenses like a hot knife, through butter. Stalin is dumbfounded, he retreats to his dacha, his country house, in the leafy Moscow suburbs. Dr. Michael Lynch, we sat in a chair looking at the wall, is that Dasha outside Moscow?
And refused to comment when news came to and nobody knew what to do.
This hysteria, this is paralysis, the dissent. You couldn't give orders for response, for retaliation, because officially it hadn't happened inside.
Inside, the Germans are closing in on Moscow, but the Soviet leader is nowhere to be seen. A delegation of Stalin's deputies muster up the courage to go and find him. It's a risky proposition. Stalin doesn't take kindly to having his private time disturbed.
Granted access to his dacha, the deputies find their boss cowering in his bedroom. They've never seen him like this. Simon Sebag Montefiore, Hitler was the greatest gambler of all time, and Stalin just did not guess that Hitler would be such an insane gambler that he would go to war with everybody, including the Soviet Union. So this is the reason why he totally underestimated Hitler. When Hitler invaded, he was completely shocked and it was one of the great mistakes of his life.
He was actually extremely lucky to recover from it. And in other systems, he wouldn't have done that because he'd killed so many of his enemies and all the so frightened of him. He wasn't punished by his fellow leaders for this terrible mistake. He was extremely shaken. He said Lenin built the state. We're going to lose it. And he was close to panic. At this crucial moment in World War Two, the stakes are unbelievably high. Stalin has created a system where every major decision is channeled through him.
If he doesn't feel like working, the whole system grinds to a halt. His deputies implored him to return to the fray. Finally, he concedes. Starlin snaps out of his stupor. Professor Jonathan Brent. They said, Comrade Stalin, we need you, we need your leadership, and he came back and he regained his vitality and he led the country after that, so he almost destroyed the country. But in a way, his strength pulled them through.
And once he snaps out of it, he becomes one of the major it's a great war leader, I think we'd say, but it was touch and go. How do you say paralytic for another two, three days, refusing to allow proper response on the Soviet side. He may well have lost the war. It was touch and go back and charge. He takes full control. Russia has its leader back. But his blundering, highly centralized approach proves extremely costly.
Stalin is a master of statecraft, but he knows little when it comes to managing a fully fledged war. An extraordinary change. At first, he would forbid generals to retreat even when a military sense retreat. He lost army after army division after division. He sent his political commissars to interfere to the generals on the spot to interfere with every level of command, even though they were incompetent. And it wasn't for a year or two the start and finally learned that you leave the army to get on with the job and you concentrate on supplying them with tanks.
Stalin's first born son, Ya'akov, is fighting at the front. In 1941, one act was captured by the Germans. The Germans think they can do a deal. But then Starlin shows Hitler a ruthless he really is Stalin, Heat-resistant, Ya'acov, he didn't even see him till he was 17. Ya'acov tried to commit suicide and Stalin said to her, You missed. So there was no love. But Ya'akov was captured by the Germans and the Germans thought they had a trophy.
They negotiated to get some German generals back in exchange for Ya'acov. And Stalin said, I don't swap generals for a soldier. That was a typical example of Stalin's Georgian principle. You never save your own children when the nation is in danger. You don't show your own children affection in public. That, of course, impressed the Germans. Enormously abandoned by his father, Ya'akov meets a tragic end in a German prisoner of war camp Rosemann Richardson is a journalist and author of The Long Shadow Inside Stalin's Family.
Ya'akov was a gentle soul who wanted to be an engineer and didn't want to be a soldier. He wasn't a macho type, and that wasn't good enough for Stalin, who thought both his sons should be, you know, brave warriors and hero types. So they took a photograph of Ya'acov, who looks in that photograph that they used Haggart. He looks cadaverous. He's a shrunken specter of a man, considering that a few years before he'd been this lovely looking Georgian character.
So they circulate this picture as propaganda, the Germans to say we're winning the war. We've got Stalin's son. And Stalin turns around. He says, I have no son called Ya'akov, so he just inherits his son publicly. His son was not good enough for him, so he didn't have one. Ya'akov eventually threw himself on the electrified barbed wire and died. It's just tragic. One of the saddest stories of the impact of Stalin on his family.
More than 20 million Soviets give their lives in the fight against the Nazis. The tide of the war turns the Russian winter deals a fatal blow to Hitler's designs in the east, all invaders of Russia except the Mongols have made one mistake.
They don't believe the weather reports. Napoleon wouldn't believe it. Hitler wouldn't believe it.
General Jan, General February are the biggest generals in the Russian army.
They were both utterly ruthless. They had absolutely no remorse. Hitler was, I would say, a different sort of gambler. Hitler was someone who goes to see a roulette wheel, puts his entire fortune on zero. We're starting played poker and watched to see what was in other people's hands. He was a card counter, so that was why he started. It was much more successful than Hitler. Stalin also knew when to stop. In time, Hitler continued more and more, interfering with the conduct of the war, overriding his generals to such a point that the allies, towards the end of the war forbade any attempts to assassinate Hitler because Hitler was so successful at losing the war.
Whereas Stalin, after interfering at the beginning of the war and causing enormous losses by 1943, he understood he had to stand back and let the professional generals conduct the war.
He even got generals back from the concentration camps and allowed them to sit in that wheelchairs and conduct the war.
The Soviet army slowly pushes the Nazis back mile by bloody mile through Eastern Europe. Now it's the German defenses that are crumbling. The gains made in the early years of the war are lost twice as fast as Hitler's forces disintegrate. Soon, Germany itself begins to fall to the Red Army. Finally, on May the 2nd, 1945. Russian troops overwhelmed Berlin. On May the 9th, in the early hours of the morning, the German surrender is announced in Moscow.
In the years to come, this anniversary will be known as Victory Day, as Russians flock to the streets to celebrate the vanquishing of their adversary. But back in 1945, while the war is over, a new kind of global conflict is about to begin. On July 17th, 1945, in the German city of Potsdam near Berlin. The victorious allies gather to draw a line on the six long years of bloody conflict. Stalin meets with US President Truman and British Prime Minister Churchill and then Atley to discuss the details of the peace.
The Western leaders hope this is the start of a new golden era, an end to world war helmed by capitalism. But Starlin is about to reveal his hand. Stalin refuses to hand back Eastern Europe. No one will ever be able to invade the Soviet Union again. Because Stalin is going to keep every inch of the territory that his army has taken during the war. He makes a show of making concessions, he agrees to hold democratic elections in certain territories of the Soviet empire.
Emotionally exhausted, the Western allies don't have the stomach to oppose him, Stalin found it very easy to negotiate with the allies he recognized among the allied delegations, some very tough diplomats. But he was very pleased to see that nobody listened to them, that they had Churchill, who was only interested in salvaging what he could to the British Empire and didn't care at all what was going to happen to Eastern Europe. Roosevelt, who was a sick man and who had illusions about Uncle Joe being basically a decent sort, he would agree to democratic elections, of course, but as Stalin said, it's not important.
Who votes is important, who counts the votes. And that was something he was going to do himself. So Greece was the only country that was really saved from the Soviet clutches. The rest just went under. The fault lines between the allies overlooked during the fight against Germany are now abundantly clear. Derrick Henry Flood is an independent journalist, foreign reporter and analyst throughout the Soviet participation in the Second World War of Stalin's goals are markedly different from those of Roosevelt and Churchill.
His key allies in the West, Stalin sought to expand Soviet communism and Stalinism within Eastern Europe. The West sought to defeat Hitler militarily and perhaps rebuild Germany once. That goal could be ultimately accomplished. As it was beginning in nineteen forty five, Stalin wanted to expand his power with carte blanche.
In the east, Stalin's geopolitical objectives are being realized. The Iron Curtain, a vast communist landmass, will now stretch from Vladivostok in the Far East to Germany in the West.
Stalin sought to divide Europe and create sort of copycat regimes to varying degrees within Eastern Europe. This basically did away with the concept geographically, what's known as Central Europe. During the Cold War, there was only Western Europe and Eastern Europe. There was no more Central Europe. This is the hold that Stalin had had on much of Europe from Poland all the way to Bulgaria on the Black Sea. Stalin had a military and political foothold which would outlast him. His successors would inherit these sort of facile regimes, these vassal communist regimes in Eastern Europe.
So following the conclusion of the Second World War in midnight nineteen forty five, Stalin is at the helm of the largest land empire that the world has ever known.
The end of World War Two seemed to offer liberation, but now 19 million people are yoked to Stalin's ideology. West and east are now clearly demarcated on the map. Two ideologies, two world views, intense opposition. 45 years of paranoia, subterfuge and proxy wars will follow as the Cold War takes hold. In December 1949, Stalin celebrates his seventieth birthday in Moscow. The leading lights of the communist world gather at the Bolshoi Theater as they stand to applaud the performance, the faces of the leaders become visible from the stalls below.
Stalin stands next to China's Chairman Mao. With them are representatives from East Germany and Mongolia, amongst others. At the same time, thousands of miles from Moscow, in East Berlin and Beijing alike, people take to the streets bearing placards with Stalin's face. Along with 180 million people in the Soviet Union, tens of millions in Europe live in effective servitude to Stalin. If anyone objects, the great terror that's so devastated Russia can be repeated in country after country.
Professor Jonathan Brent, he probably had more power than any individual in the world up to that point, Stalin was always breaking down incipient social organizations that might be taking root in the Soviet world. Any kind of local initiative was immediately shot down. It had to come into party discipline.
The Cold War will run for almost half a century. But the Soviet dictator won't live to see it fully unfold. At the beginning of the 1950s, now in his eighth decade, Stalin has cardiac problems and his health is declining. He's worried about isolation of the Soviet Union and he is very worried about the growing U.S. arsenal of nuclear weapons. He is also worried about something else that he had never thought about before.
He had not thought of old age as an enemy, but it was an enemy because in old age, he could not be as active. He could not control things as well. He had to take long vacations in the South to recuperate from illness is the nature of which we still don't know. And he saw to his disgust that there were younger people who were vying for power. So just as in the 1930s, he had to secure power. Now, even though the Soviet Union is the most powerful nation in Europe, certainly and possibly the world, except for the fact that the Americans have the bomb.
He suddenly finds himself in a somewhat weakened position because of his heart, because of arteriosclerosis, because he's just losing it.
You know, in later life preferred not to use words in case they were used against him and people had to interpret grunts and gestures. They often had to do it when they were hopelessly drunk with Stalin, like to invite everyone to supper and himself drink cold tea while serving other people brandy. And then he would give instructions or reply to requests for instructions and supplies were very often a fist to the teeth, which people interpret as beat and beat until he confesses and a number of other gestures that they were never sure.
And Stalin could easily disavow these gestures.
Stalin spends more and more time at his dacha, gardening, feeding the animals. Josef Stalin was particularly cruel to his wives, to his children, to his associates. He got enormous pleasure out of cruelty. He got the pleasure of knowing what they had suffered. I'm not sure you could be more cruel. He was quite kind to squirrels, though, just as Hitler was quite, quite dogs and Himmler couldn't bear to strangle a chicken. But he's still paranoid, always on the lookout for new threats.
In his mind, a new enemy is coming into focus. Rosemann Richardson towards the end of his life, of course, he becomes more and more anti Semitic, violently anti-Semitic, whereas in earlier days some of his relatives and a godfather to Nordia was a Jew. He was tolerant enough of Jews. Stalin was always looking for new enemies. And after the shock of Israel choosing to be a client state of the United States when he expected to be a client state of the Soviet Union, because, after all, Golda Meir was a socialist, that was a shock.
America was now the main enemy because it had the atom bomb, first one that was linked with the Jews. There's a reason to link the Jews with his campaign against American spies. And as anti-Semitism has always been the strong force in Russia, all the pogroms of the 19th century, one one coracoid, which the population voluntarily rose up and burnt down Jewish quarters and lynched Jews, it was very easy to to get that going in all circles.
Stalin knew that the basic orientation of his country was pro America and pro Britain, and he had to turn that. So how do you turn it? You turn it by showing that America's ally, the Jews, are our enemy. They are our fifth column implanted in Russian society by American agents and the Russian Secret Service. The Russian security services are in league with the Americans.
In doing so, the hated traitor Leon Trotsky, originally named Lev Bronstein, had been Jewish. The traitor, Lev Kaminis, had had a Jewish father. In January 1953, Stalin commences yet another purge, he arrests the country's top medical professionals, accusing them of treachery and conspiring to destroy the Soviet leadership. It becomes known as the doctors plot.
Many of the accused, a Jewish, they are swiftly taken away and tortured for confessions during the time of the doctors plot, Stalin goes to the head of the MGB, the KGB of the time, Ignatiev, and he says to them, beat them, beat them, beat them with death blows. I want those confessions. In several cases, they gave them the confessions. They were still beaten. There's one doctor who was described afterwards. His back was black from the beatings.
It had turned black because of the blood blisters in. One of the doctors had to be carried into interrogations on a stretcher because he had been beaten so badly, couldn't walk.
Quotas were put in, which meant that mathematics was wrecked and physics was wrecked. In universities, orchestras had quotas. Jews suddenly found themselves unemployed. And then finally he decided the doctors had been importing penicillin from the West. Therefore, they were spies. They'd been revealing Soviet cancer treatments to Western specialists. They were dangerous. And in his last senile phase, he invented the doctors plot as a result to which the whole population were terrified of going to doctors because they were all called murderers in white gowns and doctors were terrified of treating anyone in the party.
This outburst of violent anti-Semitism fits a darkening picture. Some scholars believe Stalin may have been planning a further epochal purge of Soviet Jews. Because he died, it's mere speculation, but what we do know is that Stalin had already approved the building of four major new concentration camps in the Far East for what we're called especially dangerous foreign elements. Now, there were no especially dangerous foreign elements in the Soviet Union in 1953 anymore. The Germans were no longer dangerous or had all died.
There were about ten thousand or twenty thousand Austrians somewhere other who was there. Well, the speculation is that these concentration camps were being built for the Jews in expectation of their expulsion from the cities, specifically Moscow and Leningrad and probably Kiev as well.
Thankfully, this last purge will never happen. On March the 1st, 1953, Stalin is alone in his rooms, in his Dushka. He was sitting on a sofa with little oil. He drank a lot, but he appears to have had a heart attack and he fell over on one side and made burbling noises for an hour or two.
The most feared man in Russia lives alone for almost a day. Absolutely no one dares enter the room. Finally, his deputies muster up the courage to go in, they find Starlin lying in a pool of his own urine, but they still don't dare touch the body.
People heard through the door and even opened the door to watch. He was comatose, but he was still alive. They were terrified. I mean, even the doctors were terrified and there were no doctors on hand who were experts in heart. Is there standing around in terror, looking at this body? It may be. And a little cleaning lady comes in the babushka type head scarf and all that. And she pushed away between various people to get out of my way.
And she looked at all these dead. Come on, let me you start over underneath.
In fact, he's not passed quite yet. The staff moved Starlin onto a couch. For three days, he spoon fed medicine leeches are brought in to be applied to his body to no avail. Four days later, Joseph Stalin dies. When the news is revealed the next day, the Soviet Union is convulsed with grief. For many, it's hard to believe the father of the nation for 30 years is dead for three days. His body is displayed in Moscow while millions filed past to pay their respects, such as the heightened atmosphere, 500 people are crushed to death in the crowd of hysterical mourners.
The feeling at Stalin's funeral was that the strongman that held his country together, that got Hitler out has gone and he's left us with a number of ghastly incompetents will fight and rip the country apart. That was, I think, the real fear that chaos will now ensue. Despite around 30 million deaths on his hands and three decades of brutality behind him at the time Stalin's propaganda succeeds, it cements him as the embodiment of all that is good in the Soviet Union.
He's made to be godlike. He's taken the place of Lenin as the unchallengeable figure. And all the press or the media would call it now is directed to elevate and exalt Stalin's name. The name Stalin becomes in itself almost a prayer. And people chanted, they feel obliged to mention him whenever they can. And every textbook that is published, every play that's written, whatever the theme has to have some reference to the greatness of Stalin. There's an occasion where a poet wanted to write about nature and about the beauty of the Ural Mountains, and he didn't mention anyone in it.
And he was told who want this to be published. If not, save your neck. Josef Stalin must appear at some point. So the last verse he put all this is because of the magnanimity of Joseph Stalin. Dr. Martin McCauley, Stalin himself never separated his security from that of the Soviet Union, the glories of the Soviet Union were leaked to him. So is projecting himself as the son, the state, the Stalin. Stalin was the state.
Stalin was the Soviet Union. Without him, the Soviet Union would fail. He kept on saying to subordinates, After I go, you'll all be defeated. They're all nice. I'm the only one who can carry on this great state. When I go, it'll be finished.
Stalin had in some ways transplanted religion, the religion that he'd been brought up in of a god and a perfect paradise. He transferred that to socialism, and he had become the God of that paradise or so-called paradise, which he had built up over nearly 30 years.
He may be dead, but the Soviet dictator's tyrannical legacy will endure.
I think Stalin's brutality does make him one of the most terrifying people in history. You know, he ranks with Genghis Khan and Tamburlaine with these great sort of brutal conquerors. I think he was an evil man. I think for him, human liberty and human life was worth very little. But on the other hand, he was one of the most successful rulers Russia ever had. So with Stalin, you just have to look at this man, this extraordinary, exceptional character of such complexity and just say that he was both one of the most successful rulers in history and one of the most appalling.
Stalin got away with it. And since the system that he created basically went on for another 50 years and might have gone on longer to be better managed. Joseph Stalin created a template for totalitarianism, which was then mimicked by later leaders and in the 20th century in the Middle East, in Africa and Asia.
He's godlike to the Russian people. You'll still have people in Russia who can remember his time. We say that for all his failings, he made Russia great. He fed the people and he made the Soviet Union an achievement which he could have got by no other means other than those that Stalin used.
Whether that's godlike, of course, is a theological term, but certainly the power he wields is so unchallengeable that it's hard to find another metaphor other than Godlike to describe it.
Over time, some will forget, overlook or even excuse the horror. But those who suffered under Stalin and their descendants will not forget the reality of life under the so-called man of steel.
This is the amazing thing that Stalin did. He turned against his own people. He deported millions of kulaks. He displaced the Crimean Tatars. He turned against the Jews. He he displaced the Volga Germans. He created conditions in which five to six million Ukrainian peasants starved to death in nineteen thirty to thirty three, not to mention the Kazakhs. There may be two to three million Kazakhs who also starved to death. And he could do that because he was not a nationalist.
Hitler was a nationalist, and his nationalist ideology said to him, the German nation above everything but Stalin being a communist, said this idea above everything. I don't care who you are, where you are, where you come from. If I need to protect that idea, I will destroy you. Stalin is the embodiment of a very modern evil and evil that comes into being with a new form of the state. That's something that I think did not disappear when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
I think it's submerged. I think it behooves people who are serious in thinking about these things to consider what the characteristics of that state are, how it comes about and how it exercises its power. There are many elements of Stalinist thinking that are still alive in this world. I mean, we think that we've stamped out measles and then all of a sudden measles comes back. We think we stamped out smallpox and then all of a sudden smallpox comes back.
We think that Stalinism has collapsed. Well, I'll tell you something. Stalinism is not the same thing as Stalin. Stalinism is a way of thinking. It's a way of life. And unfortunately, the more that the liberal democracies of the West show that they cannot govern efficiently and productively, the more certain kinds of totalitarian modes of thought are going to come back into public discourse. I think you can bet on it. It's going to happen if we cannot shape our economies correctly, if we can't defend our borders, if we can't resolve internal contradictions in our societies successfully, we're going to have to face some of these modern evils that Stalin epitomized.
Next time on real dictators. In the center of China's capital city, Beijing, lies a corpse, but no one dares remove. It's protected by armed guards and a surveillance detail. It's been 44 years since Mao Zedong's body was laid to rest in the grandiose Chairman Mao Memorial Hall. He may be gone, but he's not forgotten. His portrait is etched into millions of banknotes and stamps painted onto the side of prominent buildings. China's ruling Communist Party officially recognized Mao as an heroic leader.
He's widely viewed as the father of modern China. But many experts and observers are far less flattering. To them is a sadistic thug, a man who was willing to sacrifice half of China's population in pursuing a dream of global domination. So who was Chairman Mao Zedong and how did this peasant son acquire absolute power, over 400 million people? Changing the course of history in the process. We'll find out next time a real dictator's. We'll Dictators is presented by me again.
The show was created by Pascal, who's produced by Joel Daddle, edited by James Tendo and Katrina Hughes. The music was composed or assembled by Oliver Baines from Flight Begaye. The strings were recorded by Darren Macaulay, the sound mixer is Tom Pink. The sound recordist is Robbie Stan Real Dictators is a noisy and world media writes co-production. If you haven't already, we'd love you to follow us wherever you listen to your favorite shows or check us out at real dictators dotcom.