Joseph Stalin was the second leader of the Soviet Union, serving as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1922 until his death in 1953. While vilified by most for the mass purges and repression under his rule, he was also responsible for transforming the Soviet Union from a peasant society to an industrialized state, a significant factor in the eventual defeat of fascist armies in World War II.
Joseph Stalin replaced the New Economic Policy of the 1920s (which allowed some private enterprise), with a command economy. This planned economy, comprising of a series of Five Year Plans, created a period of rapid industrialization and economic collectivization. The resulting change to agriculture, nevertheless, came with negative affects. Food production was greatly disrupted leading to widespread famine. Most notable was the Soviet famine of 1932 to1933, known in Ukraine as the Holodomor. Whether this was an ideologically motivated, artificial famine against Ukrainian nationalism (a genocide), or simply the result of bad planning, is still a contentious issue of debate.
Stalin did little to improve his image in the late 1930s. It was at this time that he launched the Great Purge (also known as the "Great Terror"), a campaign to rid the Communist Party of people accused of sabotage, terrorism and treachery. Anyone threatening Stalin's power, whether in military or civil sectors, was imprisoned in Gulag labour camps, executed or exiled. Ethnic minorities who threatened stability were also deported by the millions.
Joseph Stalin added to his bad-guy resume when he signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany in 1939. Thinking it would buy him time and territory in a conflict with the Germans, he subsequently ordered the Soviet invasion of Poland, Finland, the Baltics, Bessarabia and northern Bukovina. The Germans violated the pact, invading the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, leading to the Great Patriotic War that would cost an estimated 26 million Soviet lives. Not willing to abide by agreements with his western Allies, Stalin used Germany's defeat to install friendly communist regimes in most of Eastern Europe, locking the world in a long period of antagonism known as the Cold War.
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