IB History Student Study Guide

Stalin's USSR: c.1924-1953

IB History Standard Level

Unit Two

The USSR under Stalin, c.1924-1953

“The Red Tsar”

1. Why am I studying this topic?

Zinoviev begged the executioners: “Please, comrade, for God’s sake, call Stalin! He promised to save our lives!” Some accounts actually have him hugging and licking the boots of the Secret Policemen. Kamenev answered:

“We deserve this because of our unworthy attitude at the trial” and told Zinoviev to be quiet and die with dignity. Zinoviev made such a noise that an NKVD lieutenant took him into a nearby cell and despatched him there and then. They were shot through the back of the head. The bullets were dug out of their skulls, wiped clean of blood and pearly brain matter and handed to Yagoda – head of the Secret Police - still warm. He labelled the bullets “Zinoviev” and “Kamenev” and took them home to be kept proudly with his collection of erotica and ladies’ stockings.

Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Montefiore


· The Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917 was supposed to produce a workers’ paradise of equal opportunities free of exploitation, sexism and racism.

· By the 1930s, however, the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin was using terror, torture and mass murder on a scale which beggars belief.

· Josef Stalin was an ally of the West against Hitler during World War Two, which has helped disguise the fact that as a brutal mass murderer he beat Adolf Hitler very much into second place.

· A study of this man raises a number of important questions. For students of human nature, does he prove Lord Acton’s view that “power corrupts, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely?” For students of political philosophy, does he prove that communism can never work in practice, or did he merely corrupt the ideas of Marx and Lenin?

2. What will I learn about?

a. Stalin’s Rise to Power

Lenin’s Testament / The Triumvirate

b. Stalin’s Economic Policies

Agriculture: Collectivisation / Industry: the Five-Year Plans

c. Stalin’s Political Policies

The Kirov Murder / The Purges

d. Stalin’s Social Policies

The Cult of Personality / The Social Revolution

e. Stalin’s Foreign Policies

From World Revolution to “Socialism in One Country” / World War Two

3. How will my progress be assessed?

· You will be produce a class presentation on a self-determined question

· There will be a factual test at the end of the first half term and occasional spot tests during the course of the Unit.

· You will write two research essays on prescribed questions (below)

· You will write two essays in exam conditions on unseen questions

· You will complete a number of ‘document questions’ at home and in class

· You will complete a well organised, comprehensive set of notes for inspection at the end of Unit

Research Essay Titles

1. Analyse the methods used by one single-party state ruler in his successful bid for power.

2. "In order to achieve and retain power a leader of a single-party state needed to be ruthless, blind to human suffering and yet charismatic." To what extent do you agree with this assertion?

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